the poet robert lax (1915-2000), who lived for decades as a hermit on Greek islands, was long regarded as one of the great unknowns of modern american literature. he was a precursor of the beat generation. his works are classified as concrete poetry, but they go beyond this: lax achieved a natural and unique combination of life and work. his minimalistic poetry is everyday philosophy, meditation and achieved artistic expression. it is the art of saying simple things simply.
robert lax was born in 1915 in olean, new york, the son of Jewish immigrants from austria. during his studies at columbia university he forged a friendship with thomas merton, ed rice and ad reinhardt. in an autobiography, the seven story mountain, merton, later to become a trappist monk, draws a highly expressive picture of the young robert lax. in the 1940s lax worked for the new yorker and time, he also wrote screenplays. lax couldn't come to terms with post-war new york. he discovered the world of the circus, of performers and jugglers, and he travelled with the circus cristiani through western canada. his first literary works appeared in 1950. he travelled across europe, established the magazine pax and from 1964 he lived in Greece, on the islands of lesbos, kalymnos and finally patmos.
billie holliday, allen ginsberg, peter orlovsky, william s. burroughs, paul bowles, sun ra or erika mann - famous names: in the course of his life lax met many great artists. literary or artistic fame meant nothing to him. writing, philosophy, meditation and, in particular, meeting people were what he considered important. his literary works and drawings document the search for knowledge and creative self-motivated activity. in his cottage on the island of patmos plastic sacks full to the brim with letters, drawings and notebooks piled up. every few months he sent these bundles to the lax archives at st. bonaventure university, n.y. to be stored there permanently as his estate.
very often robert
lax's books evolved in a different way: friends who visited him on patmos
would suggest that it was high time he published a new book. hardly had
the idea been expressed than the visitor would be confronted with a mountain
of sketches, piles of paper, written and scribbled on with colour markers
- preferably blue and yellow -, texts and pictograms. there and then the
visitor would work his way through the material and finally come up with
an editorial suggestion, which lax, always open to ideas, was invariably
happy to accept. lax's books appeared in many small publishing houses
and the bibliography encompasses more than 150 books, magazines and miscellaneous.
in europe lax has mainly commanded considerable respect and attention since the video installation three windows (1999) by nicolas humbert and werner penzel, which presented three films with lax in them as a simultaneous projection. bayerischer rundfunk was also involved in the production of three windows; it was first shown in the kunsthaus zürich and haus der kunst in munich and later at many other locations throughout the world. bayerischer rundfunk's audio archive with its recordings of robert lax was also the starting point for the spoken word project wake up. re:lax with original readings, remixes, soundtracks and video.
wake up. re:lax
cd 1 robert lax readings
27, 1990, at bayerischer rundfunk hoerspielstudio munich,
cd 2 robert lax remixes / soundtracks / video
lax reading from his book mogador
design: daniel kluge
marcia kelly, for robert lax estate
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