Thomas Lux, 1946–2017


In Memoriam


The poet Thomas Lux died this weekend at age seventy, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Lux, who taught for years at Georgia Tech, aspired to make his poems ring with “the right combination of metaphor or image connected to the business of being alive.” His earlier, more ironical work recalled the surrealism of Bill Knott, a selection of whose poems Lux had just readied for publication before his death. He had work in The Paris Review in the seventies and eighties. Kevin Young, a friend of Lux’s and a fellow poet whose work has also appeared in the Review, told the Journal-Constitution, “Tom Lux was not only a great poet, but a great poetry friend and friend to poetry. He was a terrific literary citizen, dedicated to trumpeting the power of poetry and championing the music and many moods of language … He will be deeply missed.”

My favorite of Lux’s poems in the Review is “The Thirst of Turtles,” which appeared in our Spring 1983 issue and remains, along with Russell Hoban’s novel Turtle Diary, one of the great cornerstones of literary herpetology. Here’s Lux in fine form imagining the turtles’ sixty-day underwater migrations: 

One hundred,
one hundred and twenty: how long they live
in their thirst, propelling
the great bloody steaks of their bodies,
dreaming, anticipating alert
single-purposed oblivions: sweet
sweet turtle-sex—which excites
the lonely watches of sailors—sometimes days
joined in wave-riding rapture on the surface
of the depths.

Subscribers can read the whole poem here.


Dan Piepenbring is the web editor of The Paris Review.