Superabundantly Alive: Thomas Merton's Dance with the Feminine

Now Available! A New Book by Susan McCaslin and J.S. Porter

Superabundantly Alive: Thomas Merton's Dance with the Feminine is a unique, unified, multi-genre work that includes dialogue, imaginary letters, poems, and reflective essays by two established Canadian poets. Taking cues from Merton himself, Susan and John establish a playful, jazzy, dialogic tone - superabundantly alive. This book invites participation for those who already know Merton's work and for those who are meeting this whole and broken, prophetic, whimsical, paradoxical prophet and visionary for the first time.

Robert Lax once described Merton's poetry and the man himself as "superabundantly alive." McCaslin and Porter prove the truth of this description in their enchanting account of the writer-mystic who now comes into his second century of stature and significance, in the words of Boris Pasternak, "[a]live and burning to the end."

"In Superabundantly Alive: Thomas Merton's Dance with the Feminine, Susan McCaslin and J.S. Porter combine their expansive resources of Mertoniana, theology, and third-eye poetics to compile a volume that is at once erudite, conversational, and spiritual. The work of seasoned poets who know how to direct and release the power of language with masterful economy and creativity, the book offers a diverse readership an impressive variety of tone and format, including scholarly analysis, confessional reflection, evocative shaped verse, lively authorial dialogue, and letters to influential women in Merton's life.

"At the book's vital core is a through exploration of the role of feminine wisdom in the life and works of Thomas Merton. With apt sensitivity to the delicate aspects of their subject matter, McCaslin and Porter pursue their central purpose from multiple angles, plumbing its depths through scholarship, imagination, and personal experience accrued from a lifelong engagement with the many facets of Thomas Merton. This unique publication is a fitting commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of Merton's death as well as a valuable contribution to Merton Studies for generations to come."

--Deborah Pope Kehoe
Co-editor, The Merton Annual

Of Wine and Reading

The Alfred Gustav Press published my little chapbook, Of Wine and Reading, in May 2016, along with two other books. My book celebrates the reading life, which, in Alberto Manguel's affirmation, "allows you a sort of joyful immortality, and the illusion of limitless space and time as nothing else does on this Earth." The chapbook consists of notes on my reading Clarice Lispector, Hemingway, Coleridge, Raymond Carver, and Billy Collins, among others. It's not everybody's cup of wine, but maybe it's yours.


Lightness and Soul: Now Available!

"The initial surprise of Lightness and Soul (Seraphim Books, Woodstock, Ontario), subtitled "Musing on Eight Jewish Writers," is J. S. Porter's selection: Alberto Manguel, Robert Lax, John Berger, Simone Weil, Muriel Rukeyser, Leonard Cohen, Harold Bloom, Susan Sontag, and, greater surprise, Edward Said. (The last, a Palestinian born in Jerusalem don't forget, wrote about European Jewish thinkers toward the end of his life.)"

Richard Kostelanetz, Outlook: Canada's Progressive Jewish Magazine, July/August 2012.

"John Porter is a reader, originally by inheritance, now by long-established habit. His father read poetry, theology, biography and philosophy 'in that descending order of significance.' For 'Dad and me, the book, in Ezra Pound's ... phrasing was 'a ball of light.'' ... 'Reading is what I do,' Porter's manifesto-like statement goes. 'Reader is who I am. I write books on my readings, books on other people's books, and construct sentences from other people's sentences.' Reading, like eating, satisfies a hunger."

David Cohen, Hamilton Arts & Letters, Fall/Winter 2011.

In Lightness and Soul: Musings on Eight Jewish Writers, poet and essayist J. S. Porter explores and reflects upon the writing of authors who demonstrate how reading - and by extension, the Book - fosters critical thinking and fires the imagination.

"I wanted to bring together some of the writers I've reflected on over the last ten years. I'd like readers to join me in celebrating these selected Jewish authors who, despite their many differences, are united in their passion for reading and writing."

From the enduring charisma of Leonard Cohen to John Berger's attentive response to conscience, from the austere minimalism of Robert Lax to the stormy poetics of Muriel Rukeyser, the authors discussed herein offer a collage of literary giants, a range of styles, and a blend of lightness and soul.

p.s. Susan Sontag, Simone Weil, Alberto Manguel and Harold Bloom also have a strong presence in the book.

Lightness is available from, Seraphim Editions and independent bookstores.



In Spirit Book Word, J.S. Porter guides his readers through a set of 10 key words that capture the essence of the lives of some of the most compelling literary and philosophical voices of the past century and beyond. Included are Thomas Merton, Emily Dickinson, Dennis Lee, George Grant, and Flannery O'Connor. Porter has identified a special word that animates the life of each of his subjects and which casts light into the meaning of their life and work. "Quick" is the word-lens through which he views D. H. Lawrence and "Mercy" is the way he understands Thomas Merton. "Revelation" is his link to Flannery O'Connor, while "Love" is revealed in the poignant and grace-filled work of Raymond Carver. The writer J.S. Porter reveals himself as a supremely talented reader and guide to fellow readers as he explores some of the most spirit-filled writing of the last 150 years. "We readers are here to praise traces of the human spirit and the movement of the Spirit in the bookworld. Only the book recognizes that what is contained is more important than the container."

"Intimacy in J.S. Porter's essays on literature and spirituality is of a different sort. The author treats books as if they were living, breathing worlds...

"Porter's fine critical mind is clearly felt in his elegant inquiry into the subtle places where word and spirit meet...

"Whether he is exploring the smalll but vital writing of Kristjana Gunnars, the meditative strains in Clarice Lispector or the complex metaphysics of Martin Heidegger, Porter is unfailingly sensitive to the spirit behind and within words. Where many intellectuals preoccupy themselves with the geography or landscape of text -- its contours, textures, structure, peaks, valleys, curves and edges -- Porter tries to find the inscape. He produces a meditation on writing rather than a detailed explication, but his ardent affection for the life of language and the human spirit results in an unusual, quirky, wise odyssey into the very soul of writing."

--from Keith Garebian in The Globe and Mail, February 23, 2002

Click here to read the latest reviews of Spirit Book Word.

Thomas Merton

Also Available!

Thomas Merton: Hermit at the Heart of Things (Novalis), by J.S. Porter

Forty years after his death, Thomas Merton remains one of the most significant spiritual figures of our time. In this series of ten literary portraits, J.S. Porter explores some of the many facets of Merton: the contemplative and activist, the poet, the reader, the translator, the tone setter, the letter writer, the intellectual, the lover, the synthesizer, the journal keeper.

Thomas Merton: Hermit at the Heart of Things is a major addition to our understanding of Merton. This engaging work will intrigue those versed in Merton lore and fascinate those who are meeting Merton for the first time.

"J.S. Porter is our most generous, elegant essayist. He is also one of our very best critics. Wisdom, perception, humour, wide-reading, passion, quirky intelligence, a love of style -- he has it all."

--B.W. Powe, author of The Solitary Outlaw, Outage,
Towards a Canada of Light and Mystic Trudeau.

Click here to read the latest reviews of Hermit at the Heart of Things.

The Glass Art of Sarah Hall


The Glass Art of Sarah Hall presents 27 beautifully illustrated art glass installations. Hall's work ranges from a solar tower in Vancouver to leaf patterns in an Arizona sanctuary, from whimsical prismatic glass in a children's centre to abstract designs at the Embassy of Kuwait and the jewelled splendour of the 'Wisdom Windows' at Massey College in Toronto. Her work combines joy with serenity and experiment with reverence. The book captures one of North America's finest glass artists at the peak of her technical innovation and artistic creativity. The text draws on biography, poetry, philosophy and art history in a style at once meditative and conversational.

112 pages
ISBN: 9780986870408
Published by Glasmalerei Peters GmbH, Germany, available from

"The Glass Art of Sarah Hall gives ample evidence, with its selection of lush photography and accompanying essay by the lyrical and perceptive Porter, of the noble genesis of her art in a tradition that includes the rich, deep colours of Notre Dame's windows in Paris and the austere, almost monochromatic, Cistercian windows of York Minster in England - the dance of light in Matisse's windows in the chapel at Vence and the dignified weight of Rouault's glasswork."

--Michael Higgins, St. John Telegraph

"Leafing through this volume, I found myself thinking back again and again to a line from Porter's catalogue essay: 'She makes visible the usually invisible thrust of life.' Sarah Hall does exactly that, celebrating in new glass the old symbols by which we know God, life and each other."

--John Bentley Mays, Catholic Register

"The wrap-around cover of Sarah Hall's book enfolds 100 pages of brilliant colour, the play of art on glass, the beauty of that combination and its overflow on what surrounds it. The rich variety of her palette is well captured through photographs - stunning and serene, robust and calming - indicative of Sarah's all-embracing outreach, in turn meditative and playful, uplifting and contemplative. How many shades of blue there are, how many shades of gold: airbrushed and hand painted, screen printed and sandblasted, solar cells and laminated glass. J.S.Porter's poetic writing catches well the imagery he obviously enjoys."

--Pat Fitzpatrick

This website is about an author and his books.

For J.S. Porter's online essays, check out Hamilton Arts and Letters

From the Hamilton Spectator:

Welcome to the official website of J.S. Porter, poet, critic and teacher. In these electronic pages, you will find a collection of his poems, essays, and thoughts on art and spirituality.

All opinions and points of view on the website belong exclusively to J.S. Porter.