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Why Thomas Merton Matters Now ~ Susan McCaslin

Thursday, March 14, 2019
6:30pm to 8:00pm

Banyen Books & Sound
3608 West 4th Ave.


Superabundantly Alive: Thomas Merton’s Dance with the Feminine is a unique, unified, multi-genre work that includes dialogue, imaginary letters, poems, and reflective essays by two established Canadian poets, Susan McCaslin and J.S. Porter. Taking cues from Merton himself, Susan and John establish a playful, jazzy, tone — superabundantly alive. This book invites participation for those who already know Merton’s work and for those who are meeting this whole and broken, prophetic, whimsical, paradoxical prophet and visionary for the first time. Robert Lax once described Merton’s poetry and the man himself as “superabundantly alive.” McCaslin and Porter prove the truth of this description in their enchanting account of the writer-mystic who now comes into his second century of stature and significance, in the words of Boris Pasternak, “(a)live and burning to the end."

Susan will be presenting from the book and engaging with the audience on how Merton’s writings and life are especially pertinent at this time. In this context she will be exploring Merton’s engagement with both the archetypal feminine (Sophia, divine Wisdom) and the human feminine (Merton’s relationships with real women in his life).

Susan McCaslin is the author of fifteen volumes of poetry, including her most recent, Into the Open: Poems New and Selected (Inanna, 2017). She is a Thomas Merton scholar who has recently collaborated with J.S. Porter on a volume of creative non-fiction, Superabundantly Alive: Thomas Merton’s Dance with the Feminine (Wood Lake, 2018). She is also the author of a memoir (Into the Mystic, Inanna), a collection of essays (Arousing the Spirit, Wood Lake), and editor of two poetry anthologies. Susan did her Ph.D. in English Literature at UBC and is a retired Faculty Emerita of Douglas College where she taught English and Creative Writing for 23 years. She currently resides outside Fort Langley, British Columbia where she initiated the Han Shan Poetry Project as part of a successful campaign to protect an endangered rainforest along the Fraser River.

Quotes in praise of presenter's work:

“Superabundantly Alive: Thomas Merton’s Dance with the Feminine is a refreshing addition to Merton studies. As this book bears witness, each person who reads Merton attentively finds a magic mirror in which he or she sees both a familiar and a transfigured face – a face of surprise, a face unmasked, a face freed from fear.”
~ Jim Forest, author of Living with Wisdom: a biography of Thomas Merton

“Susan McCaslin and J. S. Porter have given us in this book their heart-felt appreciations of Thomas Merton as gifted and imperfect human being, brilliant writer, and intimate friend of his readers. Their synergy as collaborators is infectious: fresh, personal, sassy, substantial. They invite us, their readers, to join with them in ‘the general dance of the universe’ to which Merton invites us all.”
~ Donald Grayston, past president of the Thomas Merton Society of Canada and of the International Thomas Merton Society

"This splendid gallimaufry by two poet-essayists is part riff, part meditation, part invention, part testament, but withal, a brilliant kaleidoscope of impression, insight, and inquiry. The many lineaments of love, desire, and memory, the many strands of ‘lived theology,’ and the many stages of human and divine maturation are explored with a fetching honesty. A liberating read."
~ Michael Higgins, Vice-President for Mission and Catholic Identity, Sacred Heart University, CT

“… Superabundantly Alive gives us a wholly unique reading of Merton’s legacy, a “theology of encounter” in flesh and freedom… Approach this book with “beginner’s mind” and you cannot help but be drawn into the fire of divine-human vulnerability, rendered vividly, theopoetically, iconically, in a kind of literary-visual mandala – always evocative, sometimes provocative, and everywhere reverberant with hope. McCaslin and Porter have penned one of the finest and most original works on Thomas Merton in many years. It is not just Merton who gazes from these pages, but it is Wisdom-Sophia, the God of grace and mercy, who dares us each moment into loving communion and solidarity with the world.”
~ Christopher Pramuk, author of Sophia: The Hidden Christ of Thomas Merton, awarded the International Thomas Merton Society’s 2011 Thomas Merton Award

“Using different lenses and creating their own ‘word dance,’ seasoned writers McCaslin and Porter offer us a potpourri of fresh insights about Merton that creates both artistic tribute and epistolary conversation with Tom and with ‘M.’ – an unconventional approach that maintains its ‘centre of prayer-poetry-praise.’”
~ Dr. Monica Weis SSJ, professor emerita of English at Nazareth College and author of The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton

“Superabundantly Alive: Thomas Merton’s Dance with the Feminine is a strong, distilled meditation on the life and oeuvre of a remarkable poet-monk whose works of spirit illuminated a turbulent period of 20th century American history. The book is particularly insightful on Merton’s ongoing journey toward the true self, his evolution from flight from the world toward openness and engagement with the social and political problems of his era and what it ultimately means to be fully alive and awake.
~ James Clarke, a poet and retired Ontario Superior Court Justice who has published over twenty collections of poetry, including Stray Devotions (Novalis, 2018)