A Meditation on
the Poetry of
PAX INTRANTIBUS - “Peace to Those Who Enter.”
These words are inscribed above the entrance to the Abbey of Gethsemani in
Kentucky. For the Trappist monks who pass beneath this legend, and who pray there
for the peace of the world, this is no simple benediction, but rather a call to labor
at the most important task of all. And for the most famous of those monks, Thomas
Merton, this call to work for peace infused the entirety of his life, and commanded
him to carry on that work in the wider world beyond his monastic hermitage.
In this meditation on the poetry of Thomas Merton, fellow poet Frederick Smock
considers how Merton’s poetry – perhaps the least-known of his writings – was
nevertheless an integral component of his peace work. But as the term meditation
suggests, Smock’s examination of the poetry serves as a point of entry into a far
broader inquiry, not only into Merton’s life and work, but into the necessary engage-
ment of other poets in the work for peace, and into Smock’s own development as an
artist and a man confronting the world.
|Praise for Pax Intrantibus
"In beautiful poetic prose Frederick Smock explores, as only a fellow poet can, the
major themes of Thomas Merton's thought - spirituality, peace, inter-faith dialog - as
Merton expressed them throughout the course of his life in his poetry. If poetry is
the barometer of the soul, Pax Intrantibus gets to the very heart of Merton."
- Paul M. Pearson, Director, Thomas Merton Center, Bellarmine University
"Frederick Smock's 'Peace to all who enter here' is not so much another meditation on
Merton as it is Merton's meditations on the timeless values of silence, solitude, and
meditation itself as a means of finding spiritual balance and peace in a world given
over to sectarian division and strife. It is a wise prescription to treat the birth pangs
of globalization, including intolerance and the practice of violent nation-building. It
should be read by all who wish to better understand the doctrinal walls that only
seem to separate us - including poets, students of the spirit, citizens of conscience,
and members of Congress."
- Richard Taylor, former Kentucky Poet Laureate
"In this short but beautifully produced little volume Frederick Smock...presents one
of the few books about Merton's poetry specifically written by a fellow poet...and
from his own background in poetry he captures insights into Merton overlooked in
many other works and then conveys those insights in delightful prose with a
lilt of poetry.... Pax Intrantibus is a gentle introduction to Merton's poetry, not an
academic tome. Smock opens up the major themes of Merton's poetry from his
earliest poems right up to the poems written in the final year of his life. Though
gentle Smock does not avoid tackling the numerous issues Merton raises through his
poetry, in particular, as the title of this book suggests, Merton's poetry dealing with
war and peace, the nuclear arms race, racism, the media and technology.... In the
spirit of Thomas Merton Smock takes Merton's thought and applies it to our present
day, thought that is as pertinent now as it was at the time Merton wrote it.... This
small book would be a valuable addition to any Merton library."
- Paul M. Pearson, The Merton Journal, Advent 2007, Volume 14 Number 2
"Smock...doesn't attempt to define the paradoxical Merton or his poetry.... But what
Smock does capture in this stirring meditation is the same deep mystery and
ecumenical spirit inherent in Merton's poetry."
- Aimee Zaring, Louisville Courier-Journal, November 17, 2007
"Pax Intrantibus...is an apt title for the author's book of meditations on Merton's
poetry. In a much larger sense, those who enter into Merton's verse get a picture of
a spirit of peace that is universal."
- Steve Flairty, Kentucky Monthly, August 2007
Frederick Smock is currently serving as Kentucky's
2017/18 Poet Laureate, while maintaining his "day job"
as Professor of English at Bellarmine University in
Louisville where he received the 2005 Wyatt Faculty
Award. The founding editor of the international literary
journal The American Voice, he is the author of a dozen
published or forthcoming collections of poetry and
literary essays including his Broadstone titles available
below. His work has appeared widely in US and inter-
national journals, and his prizes include the 2002 Henry
Leadingham Poetry Prize, the 2003 Jim Wayne Miller
Prize for Poetry, and the 2008 Kentucky Literary Award
for Poetry. His is also the recipient of an Al Smith
Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council.
"...spare and wise poems...."
The New Yorker
|BROADSTONE BOOKS titles by
|Publication Date: January 11, 2013
Paperback, 72 pages
Much of this new collection of Frederick Smock's elegant and refined verse is
informed by his immersion in the literature and culture of Scandinavia; but even if
the setting is new, he reminds us again that the human heart is the same across climes
and times, and that our common humanity will triumph over our divisions if we will
give it the chance.
"Each poem in this book creates a blaze of clarity, intensifies a moment of insight:
evening sun climbing a bookshelf, lichen feasting on a tree trunk, a window looking
down into a courtyard or up into blue sky. Like the ophthalmologist’s just-right lens,
Smock’s poems bring the blurry world into focus so that sight and insight become
Vision, revealing our world’s bounty, helping us see, doing the real work of poetry."
|Publication Date: May 1, 2007
Clothbound, 96 pages
|Publication Date: July 15, 2017
Paperback, 46 pages
"It has been my fortune, in this life, to live as a poet. To read poetry, to write it, to
teach it. And to have found long minutes in which to sit in meditation with poetry.
What does this mean?"
Frederick Smock answers his question in this little volume of appreciation for all that
poetry brings to his life, in the process inviting his readers to share in his good
fortune. Part "lit-crit chapbook" (the first of its kind?), part annotated commonplace
book, the essays collected here touch often on the theme of "preparedness," both in
how a poet must be prepared in a variety of ways to respond and give form to the
inspiration to create verse, and in the task of the reader to complete the poem by
finding the individual meaning that the poem has for him or herself. For all who love
poetry, but especially for those who do not yet realize that they do, this is gift of joy.