Thomas Lux, esteemed Georgia Tech teacher and poet

Thomas Lux, poet and professor at Georgia Tech, published 14 collections of poetry, and influenced a generation of writers. Photo: courtesy Georgia Tech
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Thomas Lux, poet and professor at Georgia Tech, published 14 collections of poetry, and influenced a generation of writers. Photo: courtesy Georgia Tech

Distinguished by his booming laugh, his arresting poetry readings and his passion for baseball, Bourne Professor of Poetry at Georgia Tech Thomas Lux, was a self-described “literary oddball” who threw himself into teaching while remaining a dedicated master of the craft.

After weekly readings at Georgia Tech, “he would invite everyone who was at the reading to come to his house, and everyone would,” said Jericho Brown, associate professor of English and creative writing at Emory University. “I would say he was an idol of mine.”

When Lux, 70, died Sunday, the internet came alive with reminiscences from those who held him and his work in high esteem.

“I was desperate to belong somewhere and Tom said, ‘Well, you can belong here, because I say you can,’ ” wrote Vijay Seshadri on Twitter. Lux, on the faculty at Sarah Lawrence for 25 years before coming to Georgia Tech in 2001, encouraged Seshadri and brought him to Sarah Lawrence.

“Only to my parents do I owe more than I do to Tom Lux. I can’t imagine being in the world without him,” Seshadri wrote.

Lux was born in Northampton, Massachusetts, to a dairy farmer and a Sears, Roebuck & Company switchboard operator. He attended Emerson College in Boston and, according to the Poetry Foundation, “began publishing haunted, ironic poems that owed much to the Neo-surrealist movement in the 1970s.”

His poetry received critical praise for his first book in 1972, “Memory’s Handgrenade.” He eventually published 14 full-length collections. He was featured on Garrison Keillor’s “Writer’s Almanac” radio spots, was published in the New Yorker, and won the prestigious Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award in 1994 for the collection “Split Horizon.”

Kevin Young, University Distinguished Professor at Emory University and an accomplished poet, said “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.”

Said Young, “I once invited him to read in a Southern Poetry Festival at Emory as part of the Danowski Reading Series — he made clear from the stage that he wasn’t a Southern poet, but I can’t help but say that he became an Atlanta one, integral to the community. He will be deeply missed.”

In addition to his teaching Lux was director of the McEver Visiting Writers program at the Georgia Institute of Technology, as well as the director of Poetry@Tech.

He told the AJC in 2006 that teaching poetry at Georgia Tech was no mismatch — 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.”

There was no information yet available about arrangements and services.

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