A Meditation on the Poetry of Thomas Merton
by Frederick Smock
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 instead 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 engagement of other poets in
the work for peace, and into Smock’s own development as an
artist and a man confronting the world.
Hardcover, 96 pages
Publication Date: May 1, 2007
|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, 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 an Associate Professor in the English
Department at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky, where he
received the 2005 Wyatt Faculty Award. The founding editor of the
international literary journal The American Voice, he has published five
previous collections of poetry as well as volumes of essays on the craft
of writing. His poems have appeared in The Hudson Review, The Iowa
Review, Poetry (Chicago), Notre Dame Review, The Antioch Review,
Shenandoah, and Cold Mountain Review among many others. He has
received the Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council, the
Jim Wayne Miller Prize for Poetry, and the Henry Leadingham Poetry
Prize. He lives in Louisville with his wife, Olga-Maria Cruz.
THE BOUNTEOUS WORLD
"...spare and wise poems...." The New Yorker
"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
Jane Gentry, Kentucky Poet Laureate
Frederick Smock returns with a new volume of his
elegant and refined verse. Much of this new
collection 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.
Paperback, 72 pages
Publication Date: January 11, 2013