Book Announcement: Monkswear (Paul Quenon)
From the publisher:
Brother Paul Quenon, who entered the monastery when he was 17 and who was a novice under Thomas,Merton, always sleeps outside with the “open sky as (his) dormitory,” where a hay-bale prevents winter snow drifts from covering him. He knows the night sky, like native peoples in all lands and times, and the birds know him! In these un-busy surroundings he is free to notice, clear to reflect. And through his honest observations, we come to visit the stark details of the monastic life, now forever imprinted as our image of what that life must be, not at all what we though it was. “Every word and event a disguise of the unpronounceable.”
Sometimes we laugh out loud, as when he describes the deep pockets of his habit- so deep he must lean over to reach his keys, dental floss, notebook or glasses, but deep enough, he notes, to conceal two bottles of wine! We visit the treasure of his nothingness, his emptiness and learn that even his humble ‘monkswear’ hanging on nameless numbered pegs, is not his own. And that he sometimes nearly sleeps while saying his rosary, but touch remains. The straw mattress, with lumps and an imprint from a previous monk must, in time, be re-imprinted with the shape of his own body…which soon too will be buried “without a coffin or a vault to keep out the rain and other earthly visitors”. But the exhilaration remains.
“These poems arise from and reveal the contemplative heart, a simple mystery. ‘Taste death / the spice of life,’ Quenon writes, or ‘Doubt everything / but your own doubt.’ He takes as his text the ‘monk’s habit’ – in all the implications of that resonant phrase – to produce simple, profound portraits of a life of solitude in community, community in solitude. Photographs complement and expand the poems, an elegant symbiosis of word and image, spirit and flesh. From these we can learn a more harmonious way of perceiving and living with ourselves, with others, and with the world – if we only take the time. Let those who have ears, listen; let those who have eyes, look.
- Fenton Johnson, Author, Keeping Faith: A Skeptic’s Journey Among Christian and Buddhist Monks
“Paul Quenon writes with a precise vision that engages the reader, and opens up the interior world in such a way that it can’t help but blossom in the mind and heart of any reader. He is a remarkable talent!”
— Marty Gervais, Editor of Black Moss Press, Ontario
“Paul Quenon’s unique monastic voice resonates with insight and beauty. He celebrates the habitual graces and over-looked miracles of a decidedly human and sensitive monk’s daily calendar. Full of vitality and good humor, Quenon communicates to our own quotidian lives his monk’s brand of fresh air.”
- Jonathan Montaldo, the Merton Institute for Contemplative Living
88 pages;11 black & white photos; Price: $19.95
ISBN: 189178515X; ISBN-13: 9781891785153
Available from Fons Vitae http://www.fonsvitae.com/newtitles.html