Mark Nepo

          One of my favorite authors is Mark Nepo. Mark, born February 23, 1951 in Brooklyn, New York, is a writer and philosopher who has taught in the fields of poetry and spirituality for more than 35 years. As a cancer survivor, Mark devotes his writing and teaching to the journey of inner transformation and the life of relationship.

          I began first with The Exquisite Risk, which called me to select it from a myriad of other delicious choices, right off the shelf in Stepping Stones Bookstore, in the first month I came to the Center for Spiritual Living, Santa Rosa. Not only have I read it numerous times (whole or in part), I continue to recommend it to many others. It was one of five books I made certain to keep in my collection, when my life circumstances insisted that I downsize. A list of Mark’s books that I have read and thoroughly enjoyed is shown below.

          Mark Nepo’s latest book, Reduced to Joy, is a book of poetry. In it, Nepo explores the places where pain and joy are stitched to resilience, uncovering them with deep wisdom, poetic passages and personal revelations. Nepo reminds us all of the secret and sacred places within, forgotten in the noise and chatter of our busy distracted 21st Century lives. Reduced to Joy is a lesson in stillness, in standing in the mystery and, above all, in the work of love. This poem from the book is already a favorite:


It’s as if what is unbreakable—
the very pulse of life—waits for
everything else to be torn away,
and then in the bareness that
only silence and suffering and
great love can expose, it dares
to speak through us and to us.

It seems to say, if you want to last,
hold on to nothing. If you want
to know love, let in everything.
If you want to feel the presence
of everything, stop counting the
things that break along the way.

          Mark Nepo’s poems reduce me first to grateful silence and then to tears and then to laughter and then to praise.  He joins a long tradition of truth-seeking, wild-hearted poets—Rumi, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Mary Oliver—and deserves a place in the center of the circle with them.
          In his time, Mark has been and continues to be a prolific writer of books. This is a partial list of his books, namely the ones I have read:

The Exquisite Risk

The Book of Awakening 
As Far As the Heart Can See
Finding Inner Courage 
Surviving Has Made Me Crazy 
Unlearning Back to God: Essays on Inwardness (collected essays) 
Suite for the Living 
Inhabiting Wonder 

                                                           ~ Suzanne Sackett
Suzanne is a Doctor of Education in Counseling, a Licensed Prayer Practitioner at the Center for Spiritual Living, Santa Rosa, CA. and a dear friend.
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