A tribute to Thomas Lux

Thomas Lux.
Thomas Lux.

The American poet Thomas Lux died on 5 February 2017, aged 70. Born to working class parents on 10 December 1946 in Northampton, Massachusetts, he studied at Emerson College, Boston (where he was also poet in residence from 1970–1975), and the University of Iowa. Resident in Atlanta, he was the Bourne Professor of Poetry and Director of the McEver Visiting Writers program at the Georgia Institute of Technology until his death.

Lux, whose poem ‘The People of the Other Village’ was published in The Poetry Review, Vol. 82, No. 2, was the author of more than a dozen poetry collections, most recently, To the Left of Time (Mariner Books, 2016). He won the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for Split Horizon (Houghton Mifflin, 1994) and was a finalist for the 1998 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for his New and Selected Poems, 1975-1995 (Houghton Mifflin, 1997). In 2011, he was awarded the Robert Creeley Poetry Prize. In the UK, The Street of Clocks was published by Arc in 2003; his Selected Poems appeared from Bloodaxe in 2014. His lively and exuberant appearance at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival in 2015 prompted a stirring blog piece by Anthony Wilson, who described Lux’s ‘An Horatian Notion’ as “a wonderful poem-meditation on creativity and art-making”.

Tamar Yoseloff, who was taught by Lux, said, “Tom Lux was an extraordinary teacher who enabled his students to think of themselves as poets. He was generous, patient, sometimes brutally honest about what we could improve in our poems, but always with the aim of showing us how we could be better. His own poems were funny, moving, gracious – an extension of the man himself.”

In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper in 2006, Lux said there was no mismatch in teaching poetry at the Georgia Institute of Technology – that poetry and science both require careful observation and creative thinking. “We’re trying to diminish the stereotype of the poet as some dreamy bozo who wanders around and then all of a sudden gets struck by inspiration,” he said. “Poems are made things. They have everything to do with intense emotions… but poems are made things. They don’t just happen.”

7 February 2017.