…from Lynn R. Szabo’s review in Cistercian Studies Quarterly Vol 44.3, 2009, pp. 380-383
“As raconteur par excellence, Porter alerts us to the gyre of Merton’s reach….
“In Ten chapters, Porter surveys Merton’s life and work as though he were in a light plane preparing maneuver for an air show. His approach is at times dangerous, daring, and surprising; at others, it is serious and salient. His trenchant wit and appropriately irreverent humor add flourishes of entertainment that make this collection a pleasurable and engaging, as well as satisfying brief assessment of Merton’s corpus of poetry, journals, letters, and essays—his life as a public intellectual and professed religious.”
…from Michael Nowlan in The New Freeman, Vol. 108, Nos. 32&33 (August 8 & 15, 2008): 20.
“Mr. Porter has not only studied Fr. Merton, he listens and reads him with an acute sense of understanding…This work will make the Fr. Merton reader go back to many of Fr. Merton’s original texts, and it will make the beginner comfortable with the language and voice of Fr. Merton.”
…from Michael W. Higgins in Literary Review of Canada, Vol. 16, No. 9 (November 2008): 27.
“Thomas Merton: Hermit at the Heart of Things…reads like a love letter, a genre that presumes familiarity, speaks from the heart and discloses the innermost self… Porter painstakingly makes sure the personal struggle is never lost sight of — not in spite of but because of — the larger context of ideas. That is why, when speaking of Merton’s desire for “a complete and holy transparency,” Porter compares him to his contemporary, the priest-psychologist Henri Nouwen… He ensures that we never see Merton isolated from his culture, his contemporaries, his time….To the degree that Porter’s love letter conveys Merton’s connectedness with our time, his book works well: kaleidoscopic, quirky and epiphanic.”
…from Monica Weiss in The Merton Seasonal 33.3 (Fall, 2008): 34-35
“This little book, charmingly printed by Novalis, is not a sustained argument, but rather a series of forays into various aspects of Merton’s career that intrigue the author… Porter casts his net wide and deep. Insights, supported by references to thinkers from a variety of disciplines, are academic-quality without the academic voice…it is the context of Porter’s language that most delights. As a published poet with a finely honed ability to create mind-awakening images, Porter keeps the reader eager to experience new insights into Merton…[He] is deft at engineering sentences to pique the reader’s spiritual ear.”
…from Paul M. Pearson, Director and Archivist at the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University in Kentucky, in The Merton Journal: Journal of the Thomas Merton Society of Great Britain & Ireland, Advent 2008: Vol. 15, No. 2: 50-52.
“J.S. Porter’s most recent book is an exploration of Thomas Merton’s life and thought from a literary perspective, and from the standpoint of a Merton aficionado. This book is almost conversational in style, it is not academic, and it doesn’t make any claims to be academic. Porter has spun a web bringing together many of Merton’s numerous interests, what he calls ‘a word-collage of Merton’s many-sided fullness.’ It is the web of a fellow poet making connections and weaving these interests together into a rich tapestry in a way not dissimilar from Merton’s approach in his later poetry… His approach is personal and down to earth, frequently using references to his own experience to illustrate aspects of Merton’s life and thought… [I]n reading Hermit at the Heart of Things, I found that Porter was frequently writing about many of the same areas of Merton’s life and thought that so often strike me…”
…from The Merton Annual: Studies in Culture, Spirituality and Social Concerns, edited by David Belcastro and Gray Matthews, Vol. 21, 2008, pp. 234-236 & 263-265.
David Belcastro: “Porter understands Merton’s way of thinking as ‘relational, personal and experiential.’ He shows how Merton moves from one encounter to another, reading and reflecting, and perhaps most importantly, forming friendships from which new questions and insights eventually surface. And, this is what Porter does with Merton. It is also what he suggests the reader should do when reading Merton. When reading Merton, one is drawn into a spiritual friendship…Porter is a poet and essayist whose perspective and interests are different than those of a biographer. He explores the possibility of entering into a literary friendship with Merton and one that transforms the reader…”
Ross Labrie: “Dionysian…”
…from an e-mail 18/05/08 from Susan McCaslin, Vancouver poet & Merton scholar:
“I just finished a delightful reading experience of Hermit and the Heart. This is your best book ever, so lucid, and intimate and poetic…I didn’t have a pen on hand or I would have been underlining and highlighting in yellow marker every few sentences…I love the way you talk about Merton creating a sense that he is us and we are him. That;s how his voice seems to me too…I also like the way you say his work is grounded in the body.”
…from an e-mail 18/9/08 by Jonathan Montaldo, Associate Director, The Merton Institute for Contemplative Living:
“I like the way you write and your tone, I am finding, is just what readers need to be introduced to Merton…People need a personal voice to lead them into Merton’s voice. Yours is wonderful.”
…from an e-mail 21/05/08 from Patrick F. O’Connell, Editor of The Merton Seasonal:
“I read your book on the trip down to Kentucky for the Program Committee Board meeting and enjoyed it very much — a wonderful combination of objective survey and subjective response… Don Grayston mentioned to me that it would now be the first book he’d recommend to people new to Merton, which is certainly a strong endorsement.”
…from an e-mail 5/06/08 from Anne Mulvaney, a frequent presenter at Mount Carmel Spiritual Centre in Niagara Falls:
“Your book is one of the clearest, easiest to read, yet thoroughly researched…books on Merton. It reads like a conversation — as if you have adopted Merton’s style yourself.”
From an e-mail 23/04/08 by Keith Griffin, Editor of The Merton Journal:
“It is a lovely and lively book, clearly written with a Mertonian passion and vigour and succeeds…in giving a balanced, well-rounded picture of the man. A unique take on Merton, full of insight.”