Encountering Silence
Paul Quenon, OCSO: Silence and Poetry at Gethsemani Abbey (Episode 32)
September 20, 2018
Cassidy Hall speaks with Trappist poet, photographer, and memoirist Br. Paul Quenon, OCSO.
Poet, photographer, and memoirist Br. Paul Quenon, OCSO sat down to chat with Cassidy Hall this past July when she was visiting Gethsemani Abbey. Author of several volumes of poetry including Unquiet Vigil: New and Selected Poems, Br. Paul is also the author of a newly published autobiography, In Praise of the Useless Life: A Monk's Memoir. His memoir is a delightful and charming story of monastic life not only as a forum for deep spiritual exploration, but also as the foundation for a life devoted to music, art, and especially poetry. Cassidy and Brother Paul Brother Paul entered monastic life in 1958, when he was only 17 years old — back before the reforms of the Second Vatical Council, when the life of a Trappist was even more austere than it is today. His novice master turned out to be Thomas Merton, who eventually became an inspiration to Brother Paul not only as a monk, but as a writer. In their conversation, Cassidy and Brother Paul discuss his life story, his experience as a monk, as a writer, and as a lover of nature. He enthuses on his special love for the poet Emily Dickinson, and shares the poem of hers which convinced him that she was a mystic (#315). He also offers a 'sneak peek' of his current writing, sharing some poems he is currently writing. Through it all, in the heart of his rich and cultured life, silence has been his constant companion. There is a kind of silence which comes from stilling the mind, and you can develop that capacity, how to not fight thoughts so much as set them aside... if you want to be free, free your mind... instead of fighting the thoughts you just stand above them like on a bridge and watch the water flow by... but then there is a kind of silence that descends upon you, and it's like the presence... it happens on its own, and that's really special. You may get that, or you may not get it... it's not a matter of looking for it, because if you're looking for it, than you're thinking of something, you have an expectation and you're dealing with your expectation. — Brother Paul Quenon, OCSO Some of the resources and authors mentioned in this episode: Paul Quenon, In Praise of the Useless Life: A Monk's Memoir Paul Quenon, Unquiet Vigil: New and Selected Poems Paul Quenon, Bells of the Hours Paul Quenon, Afternoons with Emily Paul Quenon, Monkswear Paul Quenon, Laughter: My Purgatory Paul Quenon, Terrors of Paradise Paul Quenon with Judith Valente and Michael Bever, The Art of Pausing Kathleen Norris, The Cloister Walk Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ Pico Iyer, The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere Dianne Aprile, The Abbey of Gethsemani: Place of Peace and Paradox John Eudes Bamberger, Thomas Merton: Prophet of Renewal Kathleen Norris, Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life Emily Dickinson, The Complete Poems Robert Morneau, A New Heart: Eleven Qualities of Holiness Jessica Powers, The Selected Poetry Rainer Maria Rilke, Selected Poetry Guerric of Igny, Liturgical Sermons Volume One Gregory of Naziansus, Festal Orations Gregory of Nyssa, From Glory to Glory Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire Gary Snyder, The Gary Snyder Reader Fenton Johnson, Everywhere Home The Grail Psalms: A Liturgical Psalter The opposite of faith is indifference. — Br. Paul Quenon, OCSO Filmmaker Patrick Shen, Brother Paul, and Cassidy Hall on the porch of Thomas Merton's hermitage, on the grounds of Gethsemani Abbey. Episode 32: Silence and Poetry at Gethsemani Abbey: A Conversation with Paul Quenon, OCSO Hosted by: Cassidy Hall Introduced by: Kevin Johnson Guest: Paul Quenon, OCSO Date Recorded: July 4, 2018