Friday, April 26, 2013

Brother Paul Quenon, contemplative photographer and poet...

Listen to Brother Paul read his poems...
   One of the wonderful experiences I had at the Abbey of Gethsemani was my visit with Brother Paul Quenon.  He is a gifted poet and photographer who, as a novice, studied under Thomas Merton.  It had been my hope to meet with him during my time at the abbey.  I must say, it was an absolute delight.

   Brother Paul has been at the abbey for over 50 years but his ready smile and charming sense of humor made him seem much younger.  He was gracious in sharing his images and thoughts on photography with me on our first meeting.  What impressed me most was his ability to work for years and years in a single location.  He never tires of seeing the familiar surroundings of the abbey change from day to day, season to season, year to year.  For me, the world traveler, it was a humbling reminder that the contemplative photographer does not require new landscapes for inspiration, just an open heart and fresh eyes that see each day as a new beginning.  This should be an inspiration for all of us to re-examine the close at hand, the familiar locations near to home, in our own backyards, with sincere wonder and admiration.

   Brother Paul's poems and photographs are included in wonderful books that you can get from his publisher, Fons Vitae.   Monkswear is the one shown below, the one he graciously autographed for me.   Here is one of his most recent poems that he was kind enough to give me to include in this post.

My Last Poem

Other titles include Monkscript and his latest, Monkscript Two.
When I write my last poem
it will not say good-by
to poetry, but hello to itself,

will heave a glad sigh
it got into the world
before the door closed,

will look to its companion poems,
that it might have place
among these orphans,

that they might reach out hands
in company to go together
into oblivion or into memory,

or to some secret cove
where eternity sits, 
from time to time, and reads.

   Brother Paul  allowed me to accompany him and some visiting poets to Merton's retreat, the hermitage, the following day.  This was an especially rare treat as the hermitage is usually off limits to guests of the abbey and I didn't anticipate being able to visit it.  It was an experience I will always treasure, thanks to Brother Paul.  My impressions of that visit, and another of Brother Paul's poems, tomorrow....

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