About 70 people attended the wonderful launch for Pure Act, hosted by Fordham University Press at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus on Wednesday. The first thing my editor, Fordham U. Press Director Fred Nachbaur, said to me when I arrived was that sales have been strong enough to warrant a second printing! This was five days before the book’s official publication date: September 21.
To mark the official publication of the book this coming Monday, I’ll be the featured speaker at a celebration of Robert Lax’s life at McNally Jackson Books in NYC’s SoHo district. The event begins at 7 p.m. (See my Talks page for full details.) The other participants, all reading from Lax’s poetry, will be Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner C.K. Williams, experimental writer and critic Richard Kostelanetz, former poet laureate of Queens Paolo Javier, former Lax literary assistant John Beer (my colleague at Portland State University), and Lax’s niece Marcia Kelly. If you’re in or near NYC, I hope you’ll come!
Drawing on his friendship with poet Robert Lax (1915–2000) and his close readings of Lax’s writings, McGregor eloquently offers the definitive biography of a too often forgotten figure who influenced a number of writers and crafted spirituality out of his deep commitment to love, poverty, and justice. McGregor deftly and briefly chronicles Lax’s childhood in Olean, Penn. His family eventually moved to New York City, but not before the circus came to Olean and mesmerized the young Lax—with its performers who are “portals to the land of dusk”—so deeply that he traveled with a circus through western Canada in 1949 and wrote a cycle of poems that grew out of his experience and love. By the fall of 1943, Lax had converted from Judaism to Catholicism, inspired by his readings of Thomas Aquinas’s writings and by his ongoing discussions with Thomas Merton, whom Lax had met at Columbia University. Following his conversion, Lax embraced a life of poverty, combining his lack of desire for things with a passion for nurturing a love for those on the fringes of society. This detailed biography from a friend of subject is best for those already interested in Lax’s mission. The book effectively brings to life Lax’s “pure act”—naturally living out his God-given abilities without becoming mired in judging others. (Sept.)