I’ve been reading Thomas Merton lately and, while I don’t really find his poetry particularly interesting, I find his criticism appealing. I want to look at one of his points: That you are writing for God.
DON’T GO AWAY YET!!
It is my experience that when the writing is right the conscious act of writing is only part of the process. Look to Frost’s “No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader” to understand what I mean. I’ve said and heard it many times: The poem has a life of its own. It’s true.
Merton tells us that we are writing for God and whether he feels a poet is genuinely writing for God has a lot to do with how he regards the poet. Having said this I remind you that Merton is surprisingly charitable to many poets who I thought might not meet this standard.
I come down here:
When the writing is right, the gods will lead your work. Whoever your gods are, they will lead you. This brings me to Seneca the Elder’s wonderful: “ The fates lead him who will; him who won’t they drag.” If you will let the fates lead your poems, they will and you will be the better writer for it.
I have grown to greatly respect Thomas Merton for a variety of reasons but right now he ranks high in my personal pantheon for recognizing that the arts and the gods are intimately affiliated and that this redounds to the enhancement and glory (I hesitate at that word!) of both.