Robert Lax was born on this day in 1915 in Olean, in the Southern Tier region of New York.
Lax studied poetry with Mark Van Doren at Columbia University and graduated in 1938, right before Jack Kerouac arrived on campus. Similarly, they both took on a life of wandering. Lax worked for some prestigious magazines — The New Yorker and Time — and then joined the circus as a juggler.
Eventually, he found his way to the Greek island of Patmos. The island is known as a place of pilgrimage, as the apostle John had lived there. Lax himself went on to live here for more than thirty years, living the life of a hermit and writing beautiful poetry.
Kerouac indeed did end up getting in contact with his fellow alum. You can read his letter to him in Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters, 1940-1956.
On this day in 2006 we lost Alan Ansen.
Today we celebrate his life and work. Ansen, a graduate of Harvard, was secretary to none other than the great W. H. Auden, who had come to New York City in 1939. He hung out with Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Gregory Corso, and is even written into their works. By the 1960s, he had moved to Greece, where he lived on Alopekis Street in Athens, and hung out with other expatriate poets such as James Merrill (who went on to get the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1977), Chester Kallman (one of Auden’s lovers), and Rachel Hadas (who went on to receive the Guggenheim Fellowship).
Ansen passed away in Athens at the age of eight-four, but leaves behind his poetry and prose. Check out:
I think reading someone’s work is one of the best way to celebrate their life. Do you have a favorite poem by Ansen?
Lionel Trilling passed away on this day in 1975, at the age of seventy. He had lived through a lot: World War I, the Lost Generation, women’s suffrage, Prohibition, the Great Depression, World War II, the Beat Generation, Hippies, and Disco. It’s no wonder his politics, a topic on which he wrote, shifted and swayed and remain up for discussion.
Trilling taught Columbia’s Colloquium on Important Books, where among his students were Allen Ginsberg and Lucien Carr.
photo by author Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond
I had the great honor of opening the We’re All Kerouacky edition of Ronnie Norpel‘s fantastic reading series Tract 187 Culture Clatch — aptly* held at The West End — on October 1 with two passages from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.”
Ronnie’s an amazing host. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Ronnie for a while now. We first met at an event organized by RA Araya that she emceed. She’s also the author of probably the only sports book I’ve willingly bought: Baseball Karma & the Constitution Blues.
She organized a killer line up for the event:
WE’RE ALL KEROUACKY EDITION
celebrating Jack Kerouac on the
45th anniversary of his becoming
a Desolation Angel
Kerouac Covers by Jane LeCroy
Monologues from Larry Myers
with Janice Bishop, Tom Fenaghty & Ronnie Norpel
Author Stephanie Nikolopoulos (Burning Furiously Beautiful:The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road”)
Music by Elliott Levin, Saxophone (Philadelphia)
I had so much fun mingling and chatting with others who enjoy Jack Kerouac’s writing. I loved seeing the way music and spoken word intertwined. It was a beautiful way to remember Kerouac’s legacy.
Some of my friends from the Redeemer Writers Group even came out, which was really special.
*I say aptly because the writers associated with the Beat Generation used to hang out at a bar called The West End. The Broadway bar closed down years ago, and this new incarnation is at 955 West End Avenue.
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