Poetry as Prayer … a little inspiration from Robert Lax …

Everything that exists
can turn to prayer;
even the water,
even the air.

– Robert Lax
A Song For Our Lady

If you are viewing this post from an email subscription, you’ll likely have to link through to watch the two short videos included today.

“And in the beginning was love. Love made a sphere: all things grew within it; the sphere then encompassed beginnings and endings, beginning and end. Love had a compass whose whirling dance traced out a sphere of love in the void: in the center thereof rose a fountain.”

– Robert Lax
from his renown poem, Circus in the Sun (about the circus of creation), it was read at Lax’s funeral in New York


“I think it’s a metaphysical concept
starting with Aristotle and flowering in St. Thomas
that God is pure act and that there is no potentía in him
…. Almost everything else in the universe is potentía,
it’s on its way to being pure act”

An excellent – award wining – biography – of Lax

Robert Lax (1915 – 2000) was an American poet who converted from Judaism to Catholicism. He has been called “saint,” “mystic, “one of the great enigmas of American poetry, “a pilgrim” and “a prophet.” His poems where innocent, ecstatic and even whimsical. Over time they became more and more minimalist … one simple word or strings of sounds stretched into long narrow word-cascades that sometimes stopped here and there to puddle.

“Robert Lax’s poems [prove] yet again that the gift to be simple is the gift to be free, that less is more, and that least may sometimes be most.”—John Ashbery

In addition to his poetry, Robert Lax is know for his friendship with the writer, poet and Trapist monk, Thomas Merton, also a convert to Catholicism.

Lax went to school with John Berryman and was mentor to Jack Kerouac. He was friends with and appreciated by the Beats and one of my fave writers, James Agee (A Death in the Family and – with photographer Walker Evens – Let Us Now Praise Men). Denise Levertove and e.e. commings numbered among Lax’s friends as well. He was also friends with the artist Ad Reinhart.

In 1962 Lax began his travels in Greece, settling into life as a hermit on the island of Patmos, seen by many as a sacred space. Patmos is the alleged site of the vision of and writing of the Christian Bible’s Book of Revelation. Because of that connection, the island is a destination for Christian pilgrimage.

Although Robert Lax lived quietly in Patmos and did nothing to promote his poetry or himself, people – including the Beats and other poets – came to visit him. He always welcomed his visitors and purposeful or accidental students. He was mentor to more than a few.

If poetry as prayer is a topic of interest, you could do worse than to explore Lax’s life and work. A light read and good introduction to this poet is The Way of the Dreamcatcher: Spirit Lessons with Robert Lax.  It was written by San Francisco writer, S.T. Georgiou (Greek Orthodox), who went to Patmos in search of some spiritual answers. As good fortune would have it, he met Robert Lax, became friends with him and visited often with him on several trips back to Patmos.  Subsequently, after Lax’s death, Georgiou wrote The Way of the Dreamcatcher, a book about this adventure in friendship, mentoring, the sacred and poetry.

Robert Lax received the National Council of the Arts Award in 1969.

Books by Robert Lax include:


“because yes – he likes to ‘write’ – but to ‘do’ – to do a particular thing – perhaps on paper (perhaps on canvas – perhaps in stone – perhaps, perhaps in a musical score) – a thing that will stand, a thing that will bear (that will sustain) repeated contemplation: a thing that will sustain long contemplation, and that will (in a ‘deep’ enough way) reward the beholder.”  Robert Lax, Love Had a Compass: Journals and Poetry


SHOP

This week’s recommened read.

THE WORDPLAY SHOP: recommened books, tools and supplies for poets, writers and readers is as a natural extension in support of this site and its mission to champion poets and writers and to broaden and to expand and continue to offer resources and inspiration, including information on opportunities for poets and writers.

 

but not the night, a poem . . . and your Wednesday Writing Prompt

dusk has fallen
near bereft of light
much to sorrow for
but not the night

– Jamie Dedes

“I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.” Sarah Williams, From The Old Astronomer (To His  Pupil)


WEDNESDAY WRITING PROMPT

How do YOU generally receive the night? With joy, reluctance or fear? Do you sleep well or not? Tell us in poem or prose. If you would feel comfortable doing so, please put a link to your  response in the comments section below – or, if the work is short enough – just include it there that we might all enjoy it.  Responses to Wednesday Writing Prompts are published here on the following Tuesday.


SHOP

This week’s recommened read.

THE WORDPLAY SHOP, recommened books, tools and supplies for poets, writers and readersis a natural extension in support of this site and its mission to champion poets and writers and to broaden and to expand and continue to offer resources and inspiration, including information on opportunities for poets and writers.

 

Dreaming of the Moon … poets respond to last Wednesday’s Writing Prompt

LAST WEDNESDAYS WRITING PROMPT: What would be your fantasy about the moon? Tells us in poem or prose and share the link to the piece in the comments section below if you are comfortable doing so that we all might read it. This is light one. Enjoy!


Renee Espiru (Renee Just Turtle Flight) said this prompt was timeley for her. She’s now a great-grandmother.  Congratulations, Renee and family. She writes about that experience with this poem.

I DREAMT OF THE MOON

I dreamt that I met you smiling
long before you were born

that I told you in sweet loving
to the moon and back we’ll go

that we held hands briefly soaring
seeking the beauteous moonscape

we traversed stars in the milky way
in meteorite showers of gold we played

we walked along dazzling moon beams
silken threads our carpets in space

too soon you left me in wonderment
life’s cord cut a spiraling empty place

& you sped quickly down to earth
faster even than Halley’s comet

that day I finally saw your birth
I remembered our dance among stars

marveled at so much of me in you
that your hands held stardust imbued

© Renee Espriu


And from Paul Brooks (The Wombwell Rainbow). Among other things, Paul says he does the things he does because ” I want to make sense of who I am, where I came from and where I live. An impossible but engrossing job.” Poetry can certainly be self-revealing.

The Moon

in the man
is transgender.

born of a collision
of bodies revolves
about its mam

tied by gravity’s apron strings
though mam does not wear aprons
as they’re not hip

pulls at her tides,
waxes on and off
wanes off and on

stepped on in pools,
admires our longing
sickles into plumpness

slight to fat as if pregnant,
gives a cheesy smile.

© Paul Brooks


From Sonja Benskin Mesher. Sonja tells us, “My studio is in a medieval longhouse in Llanelltyd, North Wales surrounded by mountains, lakes and rivers, and also very near to the sea. I moved here in 1993 to change the quality and direction of my life. This ancient place affects work profoundly, with its space, peace and sense of freedom.”

It was here that the work started, and I have worked full time as a visual artist since 1999, after an initial period of study of Art & Design.

dance under the moon

shall we place our heads together
and hum,
shall we twine our arms
and drift.
shall we lean together,
and hold each other up.

shall we slowly
dance under the moon
quivering in the frost
and starlight

shall we live the moment
forgetting time,
and opinions,
our choice, no reason.

or shall we slowly
bleed and die?

© Sonja Benskin Mesher

Kudos Sonja, Paul and Renee, intrepid poets.  Well done. Thanks for participating and sharing. ♥


The recommended read for this week is A Little Book on Form: An Exploration into Formal Imagination of Poetry by Robert Hass (b. 1941), an American poet who was our Poet Laureate of the United States from 1995 to 1997. He won the 2007 National Book Awardand shared the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for the collection Time and Materials: Poems 1997-2005. In 2014 he was awarded the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets.

In A Little Book on Form: An Exploration into Formal Imagination of Poetry Hass brings to bear the same senisbility that marks his poetry with force, clarity and eloquence. From Rome in the time of Caesar to the Renaissance and our own times, Hass breaks down poetry, examining its components from a postmodern perspective. The book is ranging and intense. It’s over four-hundred pages – informed, witty, erudite – something we can go back to again and again.  Never a boring moment. It’s all about love.


By shopping at Amazon through The Word Play Shop and using the book links embedded in posts, you help to support the maintenance of this site. Thank you! (Some book links will just lead to info about the book or poet/author and not to Amazon.)

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the capcized life, a poem

The Hanged Man card, Rider-Waite tarot deck


One iced night mom took his hand
and led the boy to a no man’s land
And in the darkness of that night,
he came to know himself as blight

Born upside-down and on a tether,
no turned up way to make him clever
Both heart and memory came away
with jilted mom on that crazed day

Excess baggage he seemed to be,
surviving much-grudged care you see
Imagined poems filled his dreams,
soulful skimming of raw life’s cream

On winds of change other blows,
but joys embedded he has known
And in the end life’s still worthwhile
Life was precious to man and child

Upside-down fuels such rare view,
and capsized life is a lonely pew
But when time came to make a close,
only sweetness from a thornless rose

I was intrigued by this gracious man’s history: a breech birth and coincidentally his Tarot birth card was the hanging man, illegitimate, difficult life but no victim mentality, and a graceful acceptance of death. I’ve no idea why this came out rhymed. As I may have mentioned before, I don’t care for rhymed poetry and rarely write it.

© 2017, poem, Jamie Dedes, all rights reserve; illustration is in the public domain

“Jung looked upon the situation pictured in the hanged-man as an invitation to plumb new depths of being – a challenge rather than a punishment. ‘For the unconscious always tries to produce an impossible situation in order to force the individual to bring out his very best. Otherwise one stops short of one’s best, one is not complete, one does not realize oneself. What is needed is an impossible situation where one has to renounce one’s own will and one’s own wit and do nothing but trust to the impersonal power of growth and development.'”  Jung and Tarot: An Archetypal Journey by Sallie Nichols 


The recommended read for this week is A Little Book on Form: An Exploration into Formal Imagination of Poetry by Robert Hass (b. 1941), an American poet who was our Poet Laureate of the United States from 1995 to 1997. He won the 2007 National Book Awardand shared the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for the collection Time and Materials: Poems 1997-2005. In 2014 he was awarded the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets.

In A Little Book on Form: An Exploration into Formal Imagination of Poetry Hass brings to bear the same senisbility that marks his poetry with force, clarity and eloquence. From Rome in the time of Caesar to the Renaissance and our own times, Hass breaks down poetry, examining its components from a postmodern perspective. The book is ranging and intense. It’s over four-hundred pages – informed, witty, erudite – something we can go back to again and again.  Never a boring moment. It’s all about love.


By shopping at Amazon through The Word Play Shop and using the book links embedded in posts, you help to support the maintenance of this site. Thank you! (Some book links will just lead to info about the book or poet/author and not to Amazon.)

The WordPlay Shop offers books and other tools especially selected for poets and writers.

THE WORDPLAY SHOP: books, tools and supplies for poets, writers and readers

LITERATURE AND FICTION oo Editor’s Picks oo Award Winners oo NY Times Best Sellers