Robert Lax was an American poet who developed a unique minimalist and abstract style. From an early age, he established a strong friendship with the abstract painter Ad Reinhardt. Later, while studying at Columbia University in New York City, he met Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk, poet, and acclaimed theologian, who would become a lifelong friend. These and many other friendships, such as those with Ed Rice, Richard Kostelanetz, Mark Van Doren, and Jack Kerouac, were a source of great inspiration. They remember Lax as a pensive mentor and poet of exceptional sensitivity. After graduating in 1938, Lax worked as an editor for magazines such as The New Yorker and Time, later turning to teaching and charity, as well as to the most diverse activities, including the writing of screenplays. Converting from Judaism to Christianity in 1943, Lax began a search for a more authentic and humbler dimension of living. He first moved to Canada, following the Cristiani Brothers circus troupe, often participating as a juggler. The atmosphere of Lax’s surroundings and the places where he worked at the time significantly influenced his work. The cycle of poems titled Circus of the Sun (Journeyman Press, 1959), widely considered his masterpiece, begins with the metaphor of the circus to chronicle an itinerant journey to evoke the Christian story of Creation. Lax then moved around Europe, living in France and Italy and finally arriving in Greece in the 1960s. Here, he eventually settled on the island of Patmos in peaceful solitude and spiritual clarity. Lax’s poetry gradually became more minimal, presenting a few words and their variations in a narrow vertical column down the page, as in 33 Poems (New Directions, 1988). His work was consequently placed alongside concrete poetry, and he subsequently became recognized as one of its leading exponents. Embracing a contemplative life and being uninterested in career and notoriety, most of Lax’s compositions remain unpublished today. In 1969, he received the National Council of the Arts Award and is the main subject of the film Why Should I Buy a Bed When All I Want Is Sleep? (1999) by Nicolas Hubert and Werner Penzel. Archives of his papers are preserved at St. Bonaventure University, Columbia University, and Georgetown University.

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