The death of a poet doesn’t make headlines.

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.

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What we’ve been up to…

January is normally a slow, lazy month for us. The short days are grey and uninspiring, and our instinct is to cozy up in our apartment, watch too much television, and (in the evenings) work our way through the international liquor collection we built up from last year’s travels.

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Mid-day, mid-January, from the north side of the IJ River

We did manage to drag ourselves out a few times last month, twice to the annual Amsterdam Light Festival. This is one of my favorite local events. Last year we did the walking route and this year we managed to also do the boat route.

Having experienced both, I have to admit I like the walking route better, in spite of the cold. You go at your own pace, get closer to the art, and have the chance to stop along the way to warm up with some gluhwein. What could be better?

The glass-topped boat tours are a staple of the Amsterdam tourist scene, and we’ve done enough of them to last us a lifetime. When friends come to visit and the weather is good, we opt instead for the Friendship cruises, which offer smaller, open-air boat and on-board cocktails.

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BUT, for the Light Festival we made an exception and boarded our evening cruise with 50-some tourists and locals. We put on the headphones and listened to the guide, and even laughed at some of the jokes made by our “Captain”. Many of the installations I had already seen, at least from a canal-side view. One of the best things about the Light Festival is the first day or two, when the art work is being installed but I don’t know exactly what or where they are. I’ll be on my bike and turn a corner and suddenly there’s a giant bunch of tulips in the canal, changing color and lighting up the water.

img_2819As for the boat cruise, it was nice to see the light installations from the water, as several are meant to be seen, but I think we could have lived without the tourists taking selfies out every window, and the humid, greenhouse-like environment of a glass boat in January. Lesson learned.

We’ve not been great about using our Museumkaarts this year, so in an effort to remedy that, we headed to the Nieuwe Kerk last weekend to see an exhibit about Marilyn Monroe, who would have been 90 years old this year. Neither of us are big fans of Ms. Monroe; we both admitted that we’ve never seen one of her movies from start to finish.

The exhibit was an odd one. I’ve seen a few other exhibits in the Nieuwe Kerk and it’s not my favorite setting. The “new” church was built in the 15th century and it is cold and cavernous. There were costumes from Monroe’s films – the famous dress from the “The Seven Year Itch” making its Netherlands debut – and many of her personal items, including some that I found strange to have kept for so long. (An eyeliner pencil from 1956?)

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The juxtaposition of this sombre space with the sex appeal of Marilyn Monroe didn’t quite work for me. The exhibit seemed to whitewash her difficulties with substance abuse and mental health issues. Still, it was interesting to learn more about her early life and about the many ways she tried to control her own career and image – not an easy thing for a woman of that time to do, especially in Hollywood.

The other thing we’ve been up to is finding a new apartment! Just after we returned from our Christmas holidays, the owners of our current rental confirmed that they planned to sell the apartment this year. So…on the move again! The good news is that we’ve become experts in the Amsterdam expat rental market, and were able to find a new place in about a week. We have already gotten the keys and will be moving over the next few weeks. The new place does have a guest room, of course, and visitors are welcome!

The end of the month brought the launch of my company’s new website, a project I was working on for a long time (you can check it out at http://www.idafoundation.org), and the booking of our first weekend getaway in 2017: Sicily!

As the days get longer, we’ll be settling in to our new neighborhood and looking forward to the brightening spring that can’t be far off…