Reviews - What do customers think about Walking With Thomas Merton: Discovering His Poetry, Essays, and Journals?
Why was this book written Dec 27, 2006
Perhaps I should ask why it was published and how come some of those folks on the back cover mislead us with undue praise. Did they read the bool or just endorse it as a favor? There should be more integity in the reviewers who are often paid by the book company or do some one a favor in exchange for a good review of their work, but this leads us to mustrust them and regret spending money on books that waste our time.
This is so here in a book about one man's journal during a summer sabbatical while he prepares to teach a one day workshop on Merton's poetry. It adds nothing to the glut of Merton books and sheds no new light on Merton himself. What it does do is show us how the author is enamored with Merton, whose poetry was after all not that good, and who would not appreciate such hero worship.
Walking AROUND Thomas Merton Jun 19, 2006
For Robert Waldron's enthusiasm toward the Trappist monk and writer Thomas Merton, I would have to give this book five stars -- and I must say the author's enthusiasm is catching. However ...
The 100-odd pages of this slim book constitute an interior conversation that Robert Waldron carried on with the work of Thomas Merton in preparation for a religious retreat to be held on September 23, 2000 concentrating primarily on Merton's poetry. After a brief discussion of the author, the retreat was to analyze a selection of Merton's poems. This subject interested me, as I wish to know more about these poems myself.
But although Waldron discussed his research, he never actually printed any of Merton's poems in its entirety (only a few tantalizing selections), and never once did he provide his own analysis of a Merton poem. Perhaps this was meant for another book?
Instead of the poetry and a stab at a scholarly explication of same, there are numerous references to secondary and tertiary sources, many of which Waldron did not even see fit to include in his bibliography. Moreover, even within the book, the material is organized so informally that the same topic is occasionally touched on in two or even three places with slightly differing emphases.
Perhaps ultimately my complaints are Pickwickian inasmuch as Waldron and I are on the same page where Merton and his importance are concerned. This is not the book that I hoped for, though it did have a good deal of useful information mentioned in passing.
At least I have some idea of the preparations that Waldron undertook for his retreat.
Well I Found The Book to be Excellent Mar 1, 2004
This book is made up with entries Waldron made in his diary while he was preparing for a Merton retreat at St. Stephen Priory in Massachusetts years back. Robert Waldron considers Thomas Merton to be , more or less, his spiritual mentor. He has always been stunned with Merton's impeccable honesty and openness he was known for writing with. At one point, Waldron refers to the contemplative's entire oeuvre as " a word icon," guiding an innumerable amount of people to a deeper rapport with God.
A key premise in Merton's writings is paying attention. He depicts it as "arduous as weight-lifting, but the more we do it, the easier it gets. It is a matter of will and exercise." Merton on no account felt isolated when he was encircled by all of his books. He was able to find spiritual nourishment in masters like Chuang Tzu or even William Faulkner's "The Bear." Waldron's final appraisal of Merton is, as you might expect, his boundless interest with contemplation. Merton once said, "Contemplation is essentially a listening in silence."
All in all, Waldron's keenness for Merton's worth as a spiritual guide is lucidly communicated to us here. He covers his poetry, life, and essays thoroughly and with an appreciation you can simply witness as you read the book. Waldron truly does and did admire Thomas Merton greatly. And after all, didn't we all?
Preaching Merton's words Apr 22, 2002
In "Walking with Thomas Merton," the teacher, lecturer and author Robert Waldron allows us to follow him through a summer as he prepares a presentation on the works of the Trappist poet for a September retreat. It is a journal-like chronicle of Waldron's contact with one of the more energetic minds of the age, a glimpse into the impressions of a humbly astute reader as he encounters Merton's thought in poetry and prose.
The book assumes a familiarity with the works of Merton, but readers who have encountered only two or three Merton books need not fear: Waldron's style is accessible and congenial, sometimes surprisingly, pleasantly conversational. He speaks as one reader to another, one spiritual explorer to another, confident that we will catch his enthusiasm not only for Merton, but for poetry in general.
As we see Robert Waldron sift through the compendious opus of the celebrated monk, making choices about which poems to present in his lecture, which portions of the prose to incorporate, we see him remembering when he first encountered Merton, we get brief commentary on how the work affected him (we echo his praise for the poetic prose in "A Vow of Conversation" and share his befuddlement at the attempted innovation of "Geography of Lograire"); we receive a sense of Merton's influences, and are pointed in the direction of his kindred spirits. He is compared, briefly and sagely, to another Catholic author and diarist, the late Henri Nouwen -- the differences being highlighted, as well as the similarities.
The life of Merton is generously assessed: the monk is lauded, justly, for his refusal to abandon his Cistercian life at a time of much turbulence for Church, nation, and the monk himself. His explorations into Buddhism are seen as evidence of a magnanimously ecumenical spirit; his affection for a Louisville nurse, as a humanizing moment that broadened and made tender the heart and soul of the monk. (We are offered a small but moving excerpt of one of the "Eighteen Poems," written during the days when monk and nurse were often in each other's company. It might be worth noting that "Learning to Love," volume 6 of Merton's journals, contains three or four excellent poems from this time.) Merton's sometimes uncritical enthusiasm for the politics of the left is not dealt with extensively, as Waldron's concern here is with the contemplative, creative, and poetic aspects of Thomas Merton's life-work.
"Walking with Thomas Merton" is the culmination of a lifelong enthusiasm for Robert Waldron, and he manages to convey, charmingly and disarmingly, why Merton's poems and prose fascinate him, and just might fascinate us. Merton's poems (and all fine poetry, as Waldron can attest, being an English teacher) cause us to pause from the hustle and hullaballoo, and gently urge us to pay attention to the minute particulars we often overlook, to go with the poet to a quiet space and re-create ourselves. Waldron baptizes (literally, immerses or plunges) himself in the poetry of Thomas Merton, that he might better speak forth the word (praedicare verbum) to his September retreatants. That we are allowed a glimpse of the retreat via the book's final pages, and to be alongside Waldron as he prepares for it, is a significant blessing. Waldron has given us a triune ode: to Thomas Merton, to the art of writing, and to those grace-filled moments of regenerative serenity that, please God, happen in the lives of us all.