Monastics, Hippies, and Poets…

“Light Your Lamp” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

This time of year we notice the days growing shorter already in the North Country. Since I am up everyday between 5:00 and 5:30, the later and later sunrises become more noticeable every morning. How quickly summer passes.

I have never been a person who enjoys home improvement projects or yard work. As the years go by I like them less and less. I would rather spend what free time I do have, when not at work, reading and writing.

I came across this quote from Thomas Merton yesterday:

“Monastics and hippies and poets . . . we’re deliberately irrelevant.” ~Thomas Merton

I immediately liked it so much, that I made it my Twitter profile.

My mother used to tell me that our family moved from Santa Cruz, California, north in 1966 because she did not want her sons to become beach bums (my father explains it differently). When she said “beach bums,” I always assumed she meant hippies.

My standard line has always been, if that is what she wanted she moved too late for my brother Paul and I.

Thinking now about Merton’s quote, I see that I am a mixture of all three. Does that make me then three times as irrelevant?

Yeats once said a similar thing in a quote that I now cannot find. He said basically this (much better, of course): everything that is most valuable is counted by the “markets” as worthless. A very Franciscan remark.

We live in a world where everything is a commodity. Our time, our work, our very lives themselves are measured and given value based on a system that reduces everything in one way or another to money. We esteem those who have much wealth as successful and try to emulate them. Entrepreneurs, those who we are viewed as taking big risks for financial gain, are our heroes.

But why?

What could be further from what we really are than mere money?

That is why monastics and hippies and poets are irrelevant. We have seen the truth… and the truth has set us free.

Franciscan Hearts and Minds

“Canticle of the Sun” (

It is foggy this morning in the North Country. While I have lived in places where fog is relatively common, here it is a rare event. Something to be noted and celebrated.

As I have noted here recently, St. Francis is often on my mind these days. Besides reading Daniel Horan’s excellent The Franciscan Heart of Thomas Merton. I have been spending time at an excellent site called Franciscan Intellectual Tradition and reading again some of the foundational Franciscan theologians (St. Bonaventure, Duns Scotus).

What was at first merely an “instinctive-guess” on my part that St. Francis would be a perfect anecdote to the madness that is Trump, has become a conviction. The more Franciscan theology I read, the more I am convinced of the world’s need for a Franciscan heart and mind.

Trump is a symptom of world that believes that creation is something to be exploited and taken, that the purpose of life is to accumulate possessions, that wealth equates to virtue, that the “other” is to be feared and exploited, that might makes right.

The Franciscan tradition reminds us, of course, that it is all really just the opposite. Creation is the mirror and image of God and so is meant to be wondered at and cared for. That the purpose of life is to let go of possessions. That wealth equates to the very opposite of virtue. That the “other” is to be cherished, loved, and supported because they are our brothers and sisters. And finally the Franciscan tradition reminds us that in Jesus we see that might actually makes wrong.

How different the world would be if we all had Franciscan hearts and minds.

Good Fortune Continues

“Summer” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

My good fortune continues. Yesterday I received word that two more of my poems have been accepted for publication. This time in Emerald Coast Review, to be published in October.

Last fall I vowed I would begin sending my work out for publication. So far seven publications have taken me up on my offer. I have also put together two chapbooks and one book manuscript that I have sent out. I am waiting to hear back on those.

Here is a list of what has been published so far and what is awaiting publication:

Awaiting Publication


A Place to Write

(photo by m.a.h. hinton)

My second-storey office is on the northwest corner of our house. In the winter, when the trees are bare, I can look out over yards and houses toward the wetlands and wild park that that surrounds our neighborhood.

This time of year, with the trees in full-dress, my view is more inward: a locust tree, our yard, and the big room where I write and read.

Here is poetical draft about my summer view.

by M.A.H. Hinton

a red rock
from Sedona

a shell
from Padre Island

out my second-storey window
a locust tree
and birds
coming and going
at the feeders

along the back fence
the new daisies
planted last year
draw my eye
like they always do

like snow
like a summer day

Poetry Review: “At Thomas Merton’s Grave” by Spenser Reese

Spenser_Reese_PoemsThere are many excellent sources for finding new poems and poets on the web. One of my favorite sites, and a frequent stop for me, is the Poetry magazine website. That is where I found this poem by Spenser Reese.

Googling Reese,  I was un-surprised to discover that he had studied theology. From this poem I would have guessed as much… indeed, I would have been surprised to find that he had not. It is, after all, a religious poem written by one with enough sense and background to take the themes raised seriously.

It is a fine poem with the exception of one line, one metaphor that I do not particularly like:”little milky crosses grow like teeth”. I think if he could rework this one line, it would would be a much better poem… at least to me.

Metaphors and similes are one of the basic “tools of the trade” to poets. They can be familiar, novel, complicated, simple, extended, direct, or some combination of all of those things. But in end they need to convey, as exactly as possible, what it is the poet is trying to convey… NOT detract from it.

While I do not wholly subscribe to Eliot’s notion of the objective correlative, I believe that there does exist for words, symbols, metaphors, and phrases a duplexity of meanings that really do need to be respected. That is to say, some words and metaphors should never, ever be placed together because the weight and freight of their many meanings can not co-exist by definition. I would respectfully submit that the three words “milk, crosses, and teeth” are three such words. Putting them together in a clumsy, unworkable metaphor disfigures an otherwise fine poem.

But, to quote Dennis Miller, “Then again… I could be wrong.”


At Thomas Merton’s Grave
We can never be with loss too long.
Behind the warped door that sticks,
the wood thrush calls to the monks,
pausing upon the stone crucifix,
singing: “I am marvelous alone!”
Thrash, thrash goes the hayfield:
rows of marrow and bone undone.
The horizon’s flashing fastens tight,
sealing the blue hills with vermilion.
Moss dyes a squirrel’s skull green.
The cemetery expands its borders—
little milky crosses grow like teeth.
How kind time is, altering space
so nothing stays wrong; and light,
more new light, always arrives.