Thursday, December 28, 2006

the ferlinghetti connection

American poet, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, owned the alternative publishing company and bookstore, City Lights, in San Francisco. In 1961 he had published Merton’s “Chant to be used in processions around a site with furnaces” as the lead poem in the first issue of a new magazine, Journal for the Protection of All Beings. Merton and Ferlinghetti met in San Francisco in May 1968.

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.


  1. I am very grateful to have found your blog. I was in the process of eliminating my blogroll when I realized what I needed to do is realign it. Keep close friends, make new friends of contemplative, reflective sorts then eliminate the dross. That is to say, I have added your Feed to my Reader.

  2. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, onionboy.

    I know that I need to limit how much time I spend on the computer, just reading stuff. It can become addictive for me, and then I wonder where my time went. Dialogue and speaking to each other - presence, really - seems to get somehow watered down to become something else if I try to take on too much.

  3. I am happy to see the onionboy arrive here. :)


The Good Shepherd’s commitments to us

Photo (by me) from the Basilica of Sts. Cosmos and Damian, Roma HT to John Predmore SJ for the following: I would like to talk about God’s ...