Terrance Keenan is a prolific writer whose contributions to poetry, non-fiction and other genres embodies his Zen Buddhist practice.

Terrance is a former rare books and manuscripts librarian, and is also a poet, artist and Zen Buddhist monk.

His books and essays include:

If Our Lives Be Spared, Syracuse University Press, 2007

If our Lives be spared Terrance Keenan Book Cover

If Our Lives Be Spared is a nonfiction history of the Collin family, from 1816 to 1895.

The family settled in the wilderness of Central New York. The book uses selections from the huge family archives of diaries, correspondence, maps, farm records at the Onondaga Historical Association to tell, not only the story of rural life in the 19th century, but the private one involving courage, Lear-like betrayal, tragedy and extraordinary love seasoned with unexpectedly profound wisdom.

Carefully edited diaries, letters, and journals show how greed and betrayal, trial and triumph, and star-crossed romance informed the emotional and material fortunes of the Collin/Knapp families. Here are true stories of generational conflict, human relations, and accomplishment shaped by time, place, custom, and kinship.

Keenan employs a unique and fresh approach to historical narrative, and his prudent use of a rich collection of family documents elevates the genre to new levels of interest, reflection, and scholarship. The result is a remarkably palpable, highly accessible, and intellectually provocative reconstruction of lives lived in epochs past.


St. Nadie in Winter: Zen Encounters with Loneliness: Charles Tuttle, 2001.

Zen Encounters with Loneliness

St. Nadie in Winter , later republished as Zen Encounters with Loneliness was a finalist for the national NAPRA Nautilus Award.

In the book, Terrance Keenan weaves together poetry, memoir, and raw insight to give voice to the lonely “nobody” in everyone.

From his memories of early childhood to his struggles with addiction, writer’s block, and human relationship, Keenan delivers a heart-rending portrayal of the human hunger for selfhood and connection.

Through his beautifully crafted literary reflections, he finds that Zen does not comfort our dream of being somebody, rather, it reveals connection only when we face who we really are—nobody. Zen Encounters intimately calls us to recognize that the well of emptiness is also a well of potential—to grow, learn, and overcome adversity.

The book was republished in a second edition as Zen Encounters with Loneliness, Wisdom Publications, 2014.


Poetry: Practicing Eternity, BASFAL Books, 1996.

Other books: Herbal, Great Elm Press, 1986; Where My Feet Meet My Footsteps, Tamarack Editions, 1986; Cambios, Zephyr Press, 1979.

Anthologies: Atomic Ghosts, Coffeehouse Press; Nuke Rebuke, S.T.M.U. Press; On Turtles Back, White Pine Press; Ardis Anthology of New American Poetry, Ardis Publishers; Serpent’s Egg, Moonlight Publications; The Apple Anthology, State Street Press; River2, River Press.

Poems, essays, and reviews in journals including: The Georgia Review, Ironwood, Poetry Now, Blue Line, Caesura, Epoch, Contact II, Dacotah Territory, White Pine, Allegheny Poetry, River, Crabgrass, Athanor, and The Spirit That Moves Us.