Feature > Poetry
Marc Straus

Marc Straus

Marc Straus has three poetry collections from TriQuarterly Books – Northwestern University Press: One Word (1994), Name of Book Symmetry (2000) and Not God: A Play in Verse (2006). Marc has received numerous awards including The Robert Penn Warren Award in the Humanities from Yale Mecical School. He is a renowned medical oncologist, art collector and owner of MARC STRAUS, a contemporary art gallery on The Lower East Side, NY.   

Thomas Lux

In 1991, I decided to apply for a poetry workshop at the 92nd Street Y although I had not written a poem in many years.  am a clinicial physician with a very busy life; however, I was accepted to Tom Lux's class and soon was writing poems in the voice of cancer patients. Tom was a generous and open teacher and was enormously supportive. As a clinical oncologist, my writing gave voice to difficulties I saw daily. Soon the work was accepted to good journals, and eventually three books were published by TriQuarterly Northwestern University Press. About a year after I took Tom's class, he invited me as the reader for the opening of the Sarah Lawrence’s writing semester. He introduced me by saying to some 300 people, “Marc Straus applied to my Y class, and his poems were terrible but I noticed he is a doctor living in Westchester and I thought I might get a ride home with him.” He repeated that story at subsequent readings. I will never know if it was true, but it doesn't matter. Without Tom, I would not be a poet and I would have lost this essential part of my life. I lost a great friend and teacher.

I was involved in Tom's medical care in his last few months. I was deeply moved by his concern, care and love for his family and friends even while his health was failing. He was generous from the first I knew him to the last. It was an honor to help take care of him.

Walt Whitman's Brain Dropped on Laboratory Floor

At his request, after death, his brain removed
for science, phrenology, to study, and,
as the mortuary assistant carried it (I suppose
in a jar but I hope cupped
in his hands) across the lab’s stone floor he dropped it.

You could ask a forensic pathologist
what that might look like. He willed his brain,
as I said, for study—its bumps and grooves,
analysed, allowing a deeper grasp
of human nature, potential (so phrenology believed)
and this kind of intense look, as opposed to mere fingering

of the skull’s outer ridges, valleys, would afford
particular insight. So Walt believed.
He had already scored high (between 6 and 7) for Ego.
And as if we couldn’t guess from his verses, he scored
high again (a 6 and a 7—7 the highest possible!)

in Amativeness (sexual love) and Adhesiveness
(friendship, brotherly love) when before his death
his head was read. He earned only 5 for Poetic Faculties
but that 5, pulled and pushed by his other numbers,
allowed our father of poesie to lay down some words
in the proper order on the page. That our nation

does not care does not matter, much.
That his modest federal job was taken from him,
and thus his pension, does not matter at all.
And that his brain was dropped and shattered, a cosmos,
on the floor, matters even less.





from The Drowned River, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990


James Langford

James Langford
Tom's Poem "A Clearing, A Meadow...


Naomi Jaffa

Naomi Jaffa
Special Remembrance Of Tom


Gerry LaFemina

Gerry LaFemina
Thomas (Not The Broken Mouthed) Lux