Thomas Lux, Creeley Award Winner, to Read in Acton

Massachusetts native Thomas Lux is this year’s recipient of the annual Robert Creeley Award and will accept the award and read in the auditorium of the Acton-Boxborough Regional High School at 7:30 on March 28. Lux, a winner of three National Endowment for the Arts grants and a Guggenheim Fellowship, is the 12th poet to receive the award.

 

Creeley (1922-2006), another Massachusetts native, grew up in Acton and often said he learned to read at the Acton Memorial Library. He is often identified with both the Black Mountain Poets and the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance, as well as, for a time, with the Beat Generation. He published over 60 books in his lifetime and won almost every award available to poets, including  the Lannan Lifetime Achievement Award, the Frost Medal, the Shelley Memorial Award, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Rockefeller Foundation grant, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation. In addition he was New York State Poet Laureate from 1989 to 1991.

 

The Creeley Foundation, which sponsors the award, is dedicated to promoting the appreciation of poetry through the presentation of a reading each year by a major poet, who, in addition to the reading, visits the Acton-Boxborough Regional High School to encourage student interest in poetry. The high school hosts a student poetry competition each year, and the winners read along with the annual Creeley Award recipient.

 

Lux, whose poetry can sometimes draw belly laughs, told the Los Angeles Times, “I like to make the reader laugh—and then steal that laugh, right out of the throat. Because I think life is like that, tragedy right alongside humor.” He has taught in the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers, at Sarah Lawrence College, and the Universities of Iowa, Michigan, and California. He currently teaches at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

 

Poems by Lux

 

“I Love You  Sweatheart”

A man risked his life to write the words.
A man hung upside down (an idiot friend
holding his legs?) with spray paint
to write the words on a girder fifty feet above
a highway. And his beloved,
the next morning driving to work . . . ?
His words are not (meant to be) so unique.
Does she recognize his handwriting?
Did he hint to her at her doorstep the night before
of “something special, darling, tomorrow”?
And did he call her at work
expecting her to faint with delight
at his celebration of her, his passion, his risk?
She will know I love her now,
the world will know my love for her!
A man risked his life to write the words.
Love is like this at the bone, we hope, love
is like this, Sweatheart, all sore and dumb
and dangerous, ignited, blessed — always,
regardless, no exceptions,
always in blazing matters like these: blessed.

The Driver Ant
          Every member of the army is completely blind.
— John Compton, on the driver ant

Eats meat exclusively. Can’t bear
direct sunlight, marches at night,
in tall grass, or in covered causeways
it builds, by day. Relentless,
nervous, short, conservative,
twenty million or more,
like a thick black living rope
they exit, often, the colony
to eat: lizards, guanas, monkeys,
rats, mice, the tasty
largest python, Python natelensis,
who has just devoured a small antelope
and can’t move: double dinner,
in a few hours a pile of bones
inside a pile of bones.
This army’s slow
(one meter per three min.) so
they can’t catch you
unless you’re lame,
or dumb, or staked
to the ground — a hard way to die,
eating first your eyes,
and then too many mandibles
clean you to your spine.
The Driver Ant, penniless,
goes out to eat
in hordes, in rivers, in armies of need,
good citizens
serving a famished state.

 

Henry Clay’s Mouth

Senator, statesman, Speaker of the House,
exceptional dancer, slim,
graceful, ugly. Proclaimed, before most, slavery
an evil, broker
of elections (burned Jackson
for Adams), took a pistol ball in the thigh
in a duel, delayed by forty years,
with his compromises, the Civil War,
gambler (“I have always
paid peculiar homage to the fickle goddess”),
booze hound, ladies¹ man ­ which leads us
to his mouth, which was huge,
a long slash across his face
with which he ate and prodigiously drank,
with which he modulated his melodic voice,
with which he liked to kiss and kiss and kiss.
He said: “Kissing is like the presidency,
it is not to be sought and not to be declined.”
A rival, one who wanted to kiss
whom he was kissing, said: “The ample
dimensions of his kissing apparatus
enabled him to rest one side of it
while the other was on active duty.”
If women had the vote,
it was written, if women had the vote,
he would have been President,
kissing everyone in sight,
dancing on tables (a grand Terpsichorean
performance), kissing everyone,
sometimes two at once, kissing everyone,
the almost President
of our people.