Michael N. McGregor - "Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax" - with Don Share & Max Nelson

Co-sponsored by The Point Magazine

About the book: "Pure Act" tells the story of poet Robert Lax, whose quest to live a true life as both an artist and a spiritual seeker inspired Thomas Merton, Jack Kerouac, William Maxwell and a host of other writers, artists and ordinary people. Known in the U.S. primarily as Merton’s best friend and in Europe as a daringly original avant-garde poet, Lax left behind a promising New York writing career to travel with a circus, live among immigrants in post-war Marseilles and settle on a series of remote Greek islands where he learned and recorded the simple wisdom of the local people. Born a Jew, he became a Catholic and found the authentic community he sought in Greek Orthodox fishermen and sponge divers.

In his early life, as he alternated working at the New Yorker, writing screenplays in Hollywood and editing a Paris literary journal with studying philosophy, serving the poor in Harlem and living in a sanctuary high in the French Alps, Lax pursued an approach to life he called pure act—a way of living in the moment that was both spontaneous and practiced, God-inspired and self-chosen. By devoting himself to simplicity, poverty and prayer, he expanded his capacity for peace, joy and love while producing distinctive poetry of such stark beauty critics called him “one of America’s greatest experimental poets” and “one of the new ‘saints’ of the avant-garde.”

Written by a writer who met Lax in Greece when he was a young seeker himself and visited him regularly over fifteen years, "Pure Act" is an intimate look at an extraordinary but little-known life. Much more than just a biography, it’s a tale of adventure, an exploration of friendship, an anthology of wisdom, and a testament to the liberating power of living an uncommon life.

About Michael N. McGregor: Michael N. McGregor is a Professor of English and Creative Writing and a former Director of the MFA in Creative Writing program at Portland State University. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University and a BA in Journalism from the University of Oregon and has taught writing and literature at Columbia University, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and in the University of Oregon’s Study Abroad program. His essays, articles and short stories have appeared in a wide variety of publications, earning him writing awards from Oregon Literary Arts, the Illinois Arts Council and Image literary journal. A four-time recipient of Portland State University’s John Elliot Allen Award for Outstanding Teaching, he serves as a summer writing coach at the Collegeville Institute at St. John’s University in Minnesota and a writing consultant for independent writers. Before earning his MFA, he worked as a lecturer and guide for European tours and editor-in-chief of World Concern magazine. He has written about theater and other arts for the Oregonian and Seattle Weekly newspapers and served on the Portland Drammy Awards Committee as well as the Oregon Book Awards Advisory Committee. He has lectured at universities, conferences and community events on both Robert Lax and Thomas Merton and is a member of Biographers International Organization and the Thomas Merton Society.

About Don Share: Don Share is the editor of Poetry magazine. His most recent books are "Wishbone" (Black Sparrow, 2012), "Union" (Eyewear, 2013), and "Bunting’s Persia" (Flood Editions, 2012); he has also edited a critical edition of Bunting’s poems for Faber and Faber (forthcoming 2016). His translations of Miguel Hernández, awarded the Times Literary Supplement Translation Prize and Premio Valle Inclán, were published in a revised and expanded edition by New York Review Books (2013), and also appear in an edition from Bloodaxe Books (1997). His other books include "Seneca in English" (Penguin Classics, 1998), "Squandermania" (Salt, 2007), and "The Open Door: 100 Poems, 100 Years of POETRY Magazine" (University of Chicago Press, 2012), co-edited with Christian Wiman. His work at Poetry has been recognized with three National Magazine Awards for editorial excellence from the American Society of Magazine Editors, and a CLMP “Firecracker” Award for Best Poetry Magazine in 2015. He received a VIDA “VIDO” Award in 2015 for his “contributions to American literature and literary community."

About Max Nelson: Max Nelson's writings on film and literature have appeared in The Threepenny Review, n+1, the Boston Review, Film Comment and The Point, where he recently wrote about the life and work of Robert Lax. He lives in New York.