What Da Cover Says: Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poet and Beat publisher, could hardly seem more different from Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk, yet the two men not only respected one another but were friends and collaborators over a period of a decade until Merton’s untimely death.
In this volume, Bill Morgan examines their friendship and shares their correspondence for the first time. He looks into the poetic projects they pursued and details their final meeting, shortly before Merton’s passing, shedding new light on two of the most important writers of the 20th century.
What I Says: This was quite the eye-opener of a book, I have read a few bits by Ferlinghetti in the past and knew about his involvement with the Beats but as for Thomas Merton, never heard of the chap… a Trappist monk is not the sort of person you’d expect to be involved in the same circles as a man like Ferlinghetti. They only knew each other for a short period of time before Merton’s tragic death. Morgan has collected the letters these two chaps wrote to each other and puts together his research to show how they met and what they achieved with their writing.
Included here are two bits of anti-poetry that Merton wrote that Ferlinghetti was trying to publish, and they are incredible pieces, the sort of poems that have the potential to inspire the masses, I’m rather embarrassed that I’ve never crossed paths with Merton’s writing before now. The letters show how they worked together to fine tune the writing to get the poem to its final version to be included in a new journal that Ferlinghetti was working on. The book is rather short but there is still enough here to get a feel for both men and the careful balance they were working on to get the writing past the catholic church’s censors, it also shows the pressure Ferlinghetti was under to get the work published.
The book is part mini biography of Merton and shows a man who wants to find somewhere quiet to meditate and write but his fame takes over as demand for his teachings takes up a lot of his time. Even his last days he was learning and had plans for some important work that never happened. This is an important book and shows that you could be the complete opposite of somebody and yet still be exactly the same. Well written, well researched and that balance between letters and history was spot on. I can’t recommend this enough.