Monk, He Shines


I’m delighted to note the publication of Surpassing Pleasure (Porcupine’s Quill:, a collection of poetry by John Slater, a Cistercian who is known within his order as Brother Isaac.

Brother Isaac is the winner of the 2007 Foley poetry award from the Catholic weekly America. An eminent Canadian currently in exile in Washington, D.C., he is also a former baker of Monk’s Bread at The Abbey of the Genesee in Livingston County, New York.  His writing breathes a contemplative wit, an amused gratitude, a surpassing acceptance. Brother Isaac’s poetical territory ranges far beyond the cloister and into taverns, fish ponds, hospitals in which the wretched think they die alone but in fact ancient monks pray for their souls. He encounters holy fools–a retarded man wandering through the monastery,  a builder of Last Suppers in the beach sand—and he drains cases of beer and recalls (with affection) the hell he raised as a boy.

Carolyn Forche says Brother Isaac is “a poet for the twenty-first century and the footprints on the sky are his.” You don’t need a telescope to read them.  The naked eye will do just fine.

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