Lewis Hyde is a poet, essayist, translator, and culture critic. Of his 1983 book, The Gift, David Foster Wallace said, “No one who is invested in any kind of art can read The Gift and remain unchanged.” A MacArthur Fellow and former director of undergraduate creative writing at Harvard University, Hyde teaches during the fall semesters at Kenyon College, where he is the Richard L. Thomas Professor of Creative Writing. During the rest of the year he lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he is a Fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.
Max Gimblett is an artist in New York City. He works with shapes—specifically, the quatrefoil, square, and circle. He draws primarily on canvas, and wood panels with gold-leaf gilding. His work is displayed in a number of prestigious collections around the world.
On a crisp November evening Rachel Hiles—Tricycle’s managing editor—and I met with Lewis and Max at Max’s painting studio on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where Max has worked for nearly 40 years. Among the painting tables, cabinets, canvases, and religious artifacts and figurines, we spoke at length about their recent collaboration on the Oxherding series—a set of poems and drawings that present the classic Zen parable about the conduct of Buddhist practice. “Oxherding” showed at the Japan Society in New York City and is featured in its entirety in the Spring 2011 issue of Tricycle.
During the interview, I was repeatedly impressed with the clarity and precision of Lewis’s answers. He insisted that we were clear, not because he plays the nitpicking scholar (he doesn’t), but because he wanted make sure to deliver the apt response. Meanwhile, Max—with his lengthy, jutting silver eyebrows, and a glimmer in his eyes beneath them—exuded such warmth and enthusiasm at our visit that we grew a bit shy. We got over that quickly, though, and began the interrogation. —Sam Mowe
Sam Mowe: How did you two meet?
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