"The experience of the artist and the experience of the mystic are completely distinct. Although it is quite possible for a man to be both an artist and a mystic at the same time, his art and his mysticism must always remain two essentially different things. The mystical experience can, on reflection, become the subject of an esthetic experience. Saint John of the Cross could convey, in poetry, something of his experience of God in prayer. But there always remained an impassable abyss between his poetry and his prayer. He would never have been tempted to suppose that the composition of a poem was an act of contemplation."
-Thomas Merton, The Ascent to Truth
I wonder if Merton would have said the same thing in the later years (say, 1966-1968) of his life?
I don't think so.
And I think John of the Cross would have "supposed" that his poems were, in fact, acts of contemplation. What makes "Hail Mary" an inherently better prayer than the verses of "The Spiritual Canticle" or the "Ascent of Mount Carmel"?
What did Miguel Murphy say?
"Poetry, if we're awake enough."