|Born||Lawrence Monsanto Ferlinghetti|
March 24, 1919
Yonkers, New York, U.S.
|Died||February 22, 2021 101) (aged|
San Francisco, California, U.S.
|Literary movement||Beat poetry|
Lawrence Monsanto Ferlinghetti (March 24, 1919 – February 22, 2021) was an American poet, painter, social activist, and co-founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers.The author of poetry, translations, fiction, theatre, art criticism, and film narration, Ferlinghetti was best known for his second collection of poems, A Coney Island of the Mind (1958), which has been translated into nine languages and sold over a million copies. When Ferlinghetti turned 100 in March 2019, the city of San Francisco turned his birthday, March 24, into "Lawrence Ferlinghetti Day".
Ferlinghetti was born on March 24, 1919, in Yonkers, New York.Shortly before his birth, his father, Carlo, a native of Brescia, died of a heart attack; and his mother, Clemence Albertine (née Mendes-Monsanto), of Portuguese Sephardic Jewish descent, was committed to a mental hospital shortly after. He was raised by an aunt, and later by foster parents. He attended the Mount Hermon School for Boys (later Northfield Mount Hermon) graduating in 1937, then the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he earned a B.A. in journalism in 1941. He began his journalism career by writing sports for The Daily Tar Heel , and published his first short stories in Carolina Magazine, for which Thomas Wolfe had written.
He served in the U.S. Navy throughout World War II, as the captain of a submarine chaser in the Normandy invasion.In 1947, he earned an M.A. degree in English literature from Columbia University with a thesis on John Ruskin and the British painter J. M. W. Turner. From Columbia, he went to the University of Paris and earned a Ph.D. in comparative literature with a dissertation on Paris as a symbol in modern poetry.
Ferlinghetti met his wife-to-be, Selden Kirby-Smith, the granddaughter of Edmund Kirby-Smith, in 1946 aboard a ship en route to France. They were both heading to Paris to study at the Sorbonne. Kirby-Smith went by the name Kirby.
He moved to San Francisco in 1951 and founded City Lights in North Beach in 1953, in partnership with Peter D. Martin, a student at San Francisco State University. They both invested $500.In 1955 Ferlinghetti bought Martin's share and established a publishing house with the same name. The first series he published was the Pocket Poets Series. He was arrested for publishing Allen Ginsberg's Howl , resulting in a First Amendment trial in 1957, where Ferlinghetti was charged with publishing an obscene work—and acquitted.
If you would be a poet, create works capable of answering the challenge of
apocalyptic times, even if this meaning sounds apocalyptic.
You are Whitman, you are Poe, you are Mark Twain, you are Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay, you are Neruda and Mayakovsky and Pasolini, you are an American or a non-American, you can conquer the conquerors with words. ...— Lawrence Ferlinghetti. From Poetry as Insurgent Art [I am signaling you through the flames].
Ferlinghetti published many of the Beat poets and is considered by some as a Beat poet as well.Yet Ferlinghetti did not consider himself to be a Beat poet, as he said in the 2013 documentary Ferlinghetti: Rebirth of Wonder: "Don't call me a Beat. I never was a Beat poet."
Ferlinghetti penned much of his early poetry in the vein of T. S. Eliot.Ferlinghetti told poet and critic Jack Foley, "Everything I wrote sounded just like him." Yet, even in his poems inspired by Eliot such as Ferlinghetti's "Constantly Risking Absurdity," Ferlinghetti is ever the populist as he compares the poet first to a trapeze artist in a circus and then to a "little charleychaplin man."
Critics have noted that Ferlinghetti's poetry often takes on a highly visual dimension as befits this poet who was also a painter.As the poet and critic Jack Foley states, Ferlinghetti's poems "tell little stories, make 'pictures'." Ferlinghetti as a poet paints with his words pictures full of color capturing the average American experience as seen in his poem "In Golden Gate Park that Day: "In Golden Gate Park that day/ a man and his wife were coming along/ ... He was wearing green suspenders ... while his wife was carrying a bunch of grapes." In the first poem in A Coney Island of the Mind entitled, "In Goya's Greatest Scenes, We Seem To See," Ferlinghetti describes with words the "suffering humanity" that Goya portrayed by brush in his paintings. Ferlinghetti concludes his poem with the recognition that "suffering humanity" today might be painted as average Americans drowning in the materialism: "on a freeway fifty lanes wide/ a concrete continent/ spaced with bland billboards/ illustrating imbecile illusions of happiness."
Ferlinghetti took a distinctly populist approach to poetry, emphasizing throughout his work "that art should be accessible to all people, not just a handful of highly educated intellectuals." "'Truth is not the secret of a few' / yet / you would maybe think so / the way some / librarians / and cultural ambassadors and / especially museum directors / act" (1–8). In addition to Ferlinghetti's aesthetic egalitarianism, this passage highlights two additional formal features of the poet's work, namely, his incorporation of a common American idiom as well as his experimental approach to line arrangement which, as Crale Hopkins notes, is inherited from the poetry of William Carlos Williams.Larry Smith, an American author and editor, stated that Ferlinghetti is a poet, "of the people engaged conscientiously in the creation of new poetic and cultural forms." This perception of art as a broad socio-cultural force, as opposed to an elitist academic enterprise, is explicitly evident in Poem 9 from Pictures of the Gone World, wherein the speaker states:
Reflecting his broad aesthetic concerns, Ferlinghetti's poetry often engages with several non-literary artistic forms, most notably jazz music and painting. William Lawlor asserts that much of Ferlinghetti's free verse attempts to capture the spontaneity and imaginative creativity of modern jazz; the poet is noted for having frequently incorporated jazz accompaniments into public readings of his work.
Soon after settling in San Francisco in 1951, Ferlinghetti met the poet Kenneth Rexroth, whose concepts of philosophical anarchism influenced his political development. He self-identified as a philosophical anarchist, regularly associated with other anarchists in North Beach, and sold Italian anarchist newspapers at the City Lights Bookstore.While Ferlinghetti said he was "an anarchist at heart", he conceded that the world would need to be populated by "saints" in order for pure anarchism to be lived practically. Hence he espoused what can be achieved by Scandinavian-style democratic socialism.
On January 14, 1967, he was a featured presenter at the Gathering of the tribes "Human Be-In," which drew tens of thousands of people and launched San Francisco's "Summer of Love." In 1968, he signed the "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest" pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.
In 1998, in his inaugural address as Poet Laureate of San Francisco, Ferlinghetti urged San Franciscans to vote to remove a portion of the earthquake-damaged Central Freeway and replace it with a boulevard. "What destroys the poetry of a city? Automobiles destroy it, and they destroy more than the poetry. All over America, all over Europe in fact, cities and towns are under assault by the automobile, are being literally destroyed by car culture. But cities are gradually learning that they don't have to let it happen to them. Witness our beautiful new Embarcadero! And in San Francisco right now we have another chance to stop Autogeddon from happening here. Just a few blocks from here, the ugly Central Freeway can be brought down for good if you vote for Proposition E on the November ballot."
Alongside his bookselling and publishing, Ferlinghetti painted for 60 years and much of his work was displayed in galleries and museums throughout the United States.
Ferlinghetti painted The beautiful Madonna of Sandusky Oh! hi! O! And friend during a 1996 visit to an art co-op in Sandusky, Ohio, which was subsequently vandalized and censored by a janitor the night after it was painted.Ferlinghetti responded to this act by painting a humorous retort on areas of the canvas where censorship had occurred.
In 2009, Ferlinghetti became a member of the Honour Committee of the Italian artistic literary movement IMMAGINE&POESIA, founded under the patronage of Aeronwy Thomas. A retrospective of Ferlinghetti's artwork, 60 Years of Painting, was staged in Rome and Reggio Calabria in 2010.
In 1987, he was the initiator of the transformation of Jack Kerouac Alley, located at the side of his shop. He presented his idea to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors calling for repavement and renewal.
Ferlinghetti died of interstitial lung disease on February 22, 2021, at his home in San Francisco at age 101.
Ferlinghetti received numerous awards, including the Los Angeles Times' Robert Kirsch Award,the BABRA Award for Lifetime Achievement, the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Award for Contribution to American Arts and Letters, and the ACLU Earl Warren Civil Liberties Award. He won the Premio Taormina in 1973, and thereafter was awarded the Premio Camaiore, the Premio Flaiano, the Premio Cavour, among other honors in Italy. The Career Award was conferred on October 28, 2017 at the XIV edition of the Premio di Arti Letterarie Metropoli di Torino in Turin.
Ferlinghetti was named San Francisco's Poet Laureate in August 1998 and served for two years. In 2003 he was awarded the Poetry Society of America's Frost Medal,the Author's Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The National Book Foundation honored him with the inaugural Literarian Award (2005), given for outstanding service to the American literary community. In 2007 he was named Commandeur, French Order of Arts and Letters. In 2008, Ferlinghetti was awarded the John Ciardi Award for Lifetime Achievement in Poetry. This award is handed out by the National Italian American Foundation to honor the author who has made the greatest contribution to the writing of Italian American poetry.
In 2012, Ferlinghetti was awarded the inaugural Janus Pannonius International Poetry Prize from the Hungarian PEN Club. After learning that the government of Hungary under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is a partial sponsor of the € 50,000 prize, he declined to accept the award. In declining, Ferlinghetti cited his opposition to the "right-wing regime" of Prime Minister Orbán, and his opinion that the ruling Hungarian government under Mr. Orbán is curtailing civil liberties and freedom of speech for the people of Hungary.
Ferlinghetti recited the poem Loud Prayer at The Band's final performance; the concert was filmed by Martin Scorsese and released as a documentary entitled The Last Waltz , which included Ferlinghetti's recitation.Ferlinghetti was the subject of the 2013 Christopher Felver documentary Lawrence Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder. Andrew Rogers played Ferlinghetti in the 2010 film Howl. Christopher Felver made the 2013 documentary on Ferlinghetti Lawrence Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder.
In 2011, Ferlinghetti contributed two of his poems to the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Italian unification, Song of the Third World War and Old Italians Dying inspired by the artists of the exhibition Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Italy 150 held in Turin, Italy (May–June 2011).On the book of lithographs The Sea Within Us first published in Italy as Il Mare Dentro in 2012, Ferlinghetti collaborated with lithographer and abstract artist James Claussen. Julio Cortázar, in his Rayuela (Hopscotch) (1963), references a poem from A Coney Island of the Mind in Chapter 121.
| Library resources about |
|By Lawrence Ferlinghetti|
Kenneth Patchen was an American poet and novelist. He experimented with different forms of writing and incorporated painting, drawing, and jazz music into his works, which have been compared with those of William Blake and Walt Whitman. Patchen's biographer wrote that he "developed in his fabulous fables, love poems, and picture poems a deep yet modern mythology that conveys a sense of compassionate wonder amidst the world's violence." Along with his friend and peer Kenneth Rexroth, he was a central influence on the San Francisco Renaissance and the Beat Generation.
"Howl", also known as "Howl for Carl Solomon", is a poem written by Allen Ginsberg in 1954–1955 and published in his 1956 collection Howl and Other Poems. The poem is dedicated to Carl Solomon.
City Lights is an independent bookstore-publisher combination in San Francisco, California, that specializes in world literature, the arts, and progressive politics. It also houses the nonprofit City Lights Foundation, which publishes selected titles related to San Francisco culture. It was founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin. Both the store and the publishers became widely known following the obscenity trial of Ferlinghetti for publishing Allen Ginsberg's influential collection Howl and Other Poems. Nancy Peters started working there in 1971 and retired as executive director in 2007. In 2001, City Lights was made an official historic landmark. City Lights is located at 261 Columbus Avenue. While formally located in Chinatown, it self-identifies as part of immediately adjacent North Beach.
Kenneth Charles Marion Rexroth (1905–1982) was an American poet, translator, and critical essayist. He is regarded as a central figure in the San Francisco Renaissance, and paved the groundwork for the movement. Although he did not consider himself to be a Beat poet, and disliked the association, he was dubbed the "Father of the Beats" by Time magazine. Largely self-educated, Rexroth learned several languages and translated poems from Chinese, French, Spanish, and Japanese.
The term San Francisco Renaissance is used as a global designation for a range of poetic activity centered on San Francisco, which brought it to prominence as a hub of the American poetry avant-garde in the 1950s. However, others felt this renaissance was a broader phenomenon and should be seen as also encompassing the visual and performing arts, philosophy, cross-cultural interests, and new social sensibilities.
The City Lights Pocket Poets Series is a series of poetry collections published by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and City Lights Books of San Francisco since August 1955.
Robert Garnell Kaufman was an American Beat poet and surrealist as well as a jazz performance artist and satirist. In France, where his poetry had a large following, he was known as the "black American Rimbaud."
Kirby Doyle, born Stanton Doyle, was an American poet. He was featured in the New American Poetry anthology, with the so-called "third generation" of American modernist poets. He was one of the San Francisco Renaissance poets who laid the groundwork for Beat poetry in San Francisco. Doyle also wrote novels.
Neeli Cherkovski is an American poet and memoirist, who has resided since 1975 in San Francisco.
Harold Norse was an American writer who created a body of work using the American idiom of everyday language and images. One of the expatriate artists of the Beat generation, Norse was widely published and anthologized.
Donald Merriam Allen was an American editor, publisher and translator of American literature. He is best known for his project The New American Poetry 1945-1960 (1960), one of the anthologies of contemporary American writing he released.
David Meltzer was an American poet and musician of the Beat Generation and San Francisco Renaissance. Lawrence Ferlinghetti described him as "one of the greats of post-World-War-Two San Francisco poets and musicians". Meltzer came to prominence with inclusion of his work in the anthology, The New American Poetry 1945–1960.
Richard William McBride was an American beat poet, playwright and novelist. He worked at City Lights Booksellers & Publishers from 1954 to 1969.
Nancy Joyce Peters is an American publisher, writer, and co-owner with Lawrence Ferlinghetti of City Lights Books and Publishers in San Francisco until Ferlinghetti's 2021 death.
Allan Davis Winans, known as A. D. Winans, is an American poet, essayist, short story writer and publisher. Born in San Francisco, California, he returned home from Panama in 1958, after serving three years in the military. In 1962, he graduated from San Francisco State College.
Bill Morgan is an American writer, editor and painter, best known for his work as an archivist and bibliographer for public figures such as Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Abbie Hoffman, and Timothy Leary.
Howl is a 2010 American film which explores both the 1955 Six Gallery debut and the 1957 obscenity trial of 20th-century American poet Allen Ginsberg's noted poem "Howl". The film is written and directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman and stars James Franco as Ginsberg.
Starting from San Francisco is a collection of poems by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, his third collection and fourth book, published in 1961. The hardcover edition included a short vinyl recording of Ferlinghetti reading some of his poems. The title is a reference to Walt Whitman's "Starting from Paumanok": Ferlinghetti numbered himself among Whitman's "wild children", and Whitman's influence is shown throughout the work.
Shigeyoshi "Shig" Murao was a Japanese-American bookseller who is mainly remembered as the City Lights manager and clerk who was arrested on June 3, 1957, for selling Allen Ginsberg's Howl to an undercover San Francisco police officer. In the trial that followed, Murao was charged with selling the book and Lawrence Ferlinghetti with publishing it. Murao and Ferlinghetti were exonerated, and Howl was judged protected under the First Amendment, a decision that paved the way for the publication of Henry Miller, D.H. Lawrence, William Burroughs, and many other writers who offended the sensibilities of the majority.
Christopher Felver is an American photographer and filmmaker who has published several books of photos of public figures, especially those in the arts, most notably those associated with beat literature. He has made numerous films, including a documentary on Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder, released in 2013.
2006 – special edition, not for sale