Thomas Lux 1946 – 2017
We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of our friend and colleague, poet Thomas Lux, who died of cancer on February 5 in Atlanta.
The author of 18 books of poetry, Tom joined the MFA Program for Writers at Goddard in 1979 and taught in the program at the Warren Wilson campus until 2006. In his 25+ semesters with the Program, he supervised more than 75 students. He also taught for many years at Sarah Lawrence, and, in recent years, at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
His numerous awards included the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and multiple fellowships from the NEA and Guggenheim Foundation. (More details about his accomplishments can be found here: POETRY FOUNDATION: TOM LUX
.) Most recently, Tom was the editor of I am Flying into Myself: Selected Poems of Bill Knott,
to be published this month by Copper Canyon Press.
From MFA Program for Writers founder Ellen Bryant Voigt:
“Tom Lux was utterly pure of heart. In his life, and in his indelible, authentic poems, he was playful, kind, generous, loyal, unpretentious, and capable of great joy. He was also a truly remarkable teacher, making contagious his own love of poetry, simultaneously faithful to the highest standards for the art and his belief that you, whoever you were, could reach them.”
The appellation for the Program’s legendary “Sweatheart Ball” had its origins in this poem by Tom Lux:
AN HORATIAN NOTION
The thing gets made, gets built, and you’re the slave
who rolls the log beneath the block, then another,
then pushes the block, then pulls a log
from the rear back to the front
again and then again it goes beneath the block,
and so on. It’s how a thing gets made – not
because you’re sensitive, or you get genetic-lucky,
or God says: Here’s a nice family,
seven children, let’s see: this one in charge
of the village dunghill, these two die of buboes, this one
Kierkegaard, this one a drooling
nincompoop, this one clerk, this one cooper.
You need to love the thing you do – birdhouse building,
painting tulips exclusively, whatever – and then
you do it
so consciously driven
by your unconscious
that the thing becomes a wedge
that splits a stone and between the halves
the wedge then grows, i.e., the thing
is solid but with a soul,
a life of its own. Inspiration, the donnée,
the gift, the bolt of fire
down the arm that makes the art?
Grow up! Give me, please, a break!
You make the thing because you love the thing
and you love the thing because someone else loved it
enough to make you love it.
And with that your heart like a tent peg pounded
toward the earth’s core.
And with that your heart on a beam burns
through the ionosphere.
And with that you go to work.