What seems important to me about the Merton-Ferlinghetti relationship is the way that Merton, as a poet, was reaching into the world. Ferlinghetti was not exactly mainstream, but then, neither was Merton. But the geography of the sacred for Merton was becoming more universal, extending outside of monastery and Church walls.
It was the poet in Merton that kept him in contact with the world, that he was coming to love more and more.
Poets and monks have a lot in common, but even Ferlinghetti admitted that he didn’t know how to classify Merton as a poet, that he was:
“primarily a religious mystic who couldn’t escape the real world and he wouldn’t allow his conscience to escape the real world. So it must have been a conflict all his life between retreat and attack” (from an interview with Lawrence Ferlinghetti in the film biography, “Merton”, edited and produced by Paul Wilkes).Merton’s life shows the paradoxical quality of contemplativeness, the interplay between a cloistered monk and total social engagement at the deepest levels. As if they go together.