Earlier this month, scrolling through my Instagram feed, I noticed that a friend who normally posts her fantastic comics and sketches had instead shared a photo of a page of poetry. She commented that one of her favorite poets had died: Thomas Lux. He was also one of my favorites; this same friend had introduced me to his work. (We also share a love of Adrienne Rich, who we had the privilege of meeting at a lecture and book signing at MIT years ago. I’d like to say that we handled ourselves on that occasion with grace and gravitas, but we did not. We were both a little star-struck.)
As I searched online for more details about Thomas Lux’s passing, I discovered he had died almost 10 days earlier, on February 5th. How had I not known about this? Why didn’t I read about it somewhere? I answered my own question, surprising myself: the death of a poet doesn’t make headlines in today’s America.
As it turns out, this is not literally true in the case of Thomas Lux. The New York Times published his obituary (17 days after his death), and The Atlantic has a lovely memorial, complete with an audio recording of the poem “Virgule”. And maybe I’m being too cynical, as I’m sure that significant American poets – Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Adrienne Rich, to name just a few – received due recognition and praise at their passing.
Still, I can’t shake the feeling that precisely at a time when poetry should mean more – when we need its honesty and insight and surprise like never before – it (and those who write it) are being overlooked or ignored. I hear the truth in what Audre Lord said: “…poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence.”
So I invite you, in memory of an American poet, to take a few minutes to read the poetry of Thomas Lux. There’s Refrigerator, 1957, with a beautiful gut-punch of an ending that took my breath away the first time I read it. Or Tarantulas on the Lifebuoy, which is about exactly that. Or The Voice You Hear When You Read Silently, which will give a new perspective on something you do all the time – something you’re doing right now.
Next time I’ll catch you up on life in Amsterdam, our new apartment, and our recent travels, but for now, some poetry is necessary.