Judith Valente: Silence, St. Benedict, and Writing (Episode 39)
November 6, 2018
A conversation with poet, journalist and Benedictine Oblate Judith Valente.
Judith Valente is a poet, a journalist, a Benedictine oblate, and the author of books including Atchison Blue: A Search for Silence, a Spiritual Home, and a Living Faith and How to Live: What the Rule of Saint Benedict Teaches Us About Happiness, Meaning and Community. Her books of poetry include Discovering Moons and The Art of Pausing: Meditations for the Overworked and Overwhelmed which she co-authored with Br. Paul Quenon OCSO and Michael Bever.
Silence has two sides to it... silence could be very burdensome... so silence also has to be balanced with community. Too much silence can be deafening, it can be stifling to a soul. — Judith Valente
Judith shares how a poetry workshop at a monastery led her to a meaningful encounter with silence at midlife — how a room "saturated with silence" introduced her to a maxim from St. Benedict: "At all times, cultivate silence" — thus inviting her to seek rest in solitude and stillness as a response to her busy (and exhausting) life.
All poems begin in silence, and the poems themselves are a part of the overall silence that we experience. — Judith Valente
She talks about her ancestral ties to Monte Cassino (where St. Benedict founded his last monastery), and how Benedictine spirituality helped to inspire her and her husband to become involved in organic farming. She goes on to reflect how nature, beauty, and poetry are all linked to her spiritual life. She tells some chaarming stories about her fellow poet, the Trappist monk Br. Paul Quenon (who Cassidy Hall interviewed for our episode 32), and about the bullfrogs and cicadas who "sing" to her in the silence of a cabin on her farm, where she often goes to write.
Our conversation meanders over the problems associated with social media, poets that Judith loves and a special reading of her poems, "Discovering Moons" and "Lunar Eclipse."
Contemplation is a big fat word for gratitude. — Br. Paul Quenon, OCSO
Some of the authors and resources mentioned in this episode:
Judith Valente, How to Live: What the Rule of Saint Benedict Teaches Us About Happiness, Meaning and Community
Judith Valente, Atchison Blue: A Search for Silence, a Spiritual Home, and a Living Faith
Judith Valente, Discovering Moons
Judith Valente, Br. Paul Quenon, and Michael Bever, The Art of Pausing: Meditations for the Overworked and Overwhelmed
Judith Valente and Charles Reynard, Twenty Poems to Nourish Your Soul
Saint Benedict, The Rule of Saint Benedict
Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Personal Writings
Wendell Berry, What I Stand On: The Collected Essays
Wendell Berry, The Selected Poems
Paul Quenon, In Praise of the Useless Life: A Monk’s Memoir
Paul Quenon, Unquiet Vigil: New and Selected Poems
Sara Maitland, A Book of Silence
Judith Valente, Inventing an Alphabet
Mary Oliver, Devotions: The Selected Poems
Marie Howe, What the Living Do
Marie Howe, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time: Poems
Poetry is for everyone... Poetry is truly a 'soul friend.' Poems will come back to us when we need to hear their message. They will come back to us at different points in our lives, poems that we've read, poems that we've heard; they are our soul friends. — Judith Valente
Episode 39: Silence, St. Benedict and Writing: A Conversation with Judith Valente
Hosted by: Kevin Johnson
With: Cassidy Hall, Carl McColman
Guest: Judith Valente
Date Recorded: October 15, 2018