Lawrence Ferlinghetti

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Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Ferlinghetti.jpg
Lawrence Ferlinghetti at City Lights in 2007
BornLawrence Monsanto Ferlinghetti
(1919-03-24) March 24, 1919 (age 99)
Yonkers, New York, U.S.A.
Occupation Poet, activist, essayist, painter, publisher
Literary movement Beat poetry publisher
SpouseSelden Kirby-Smith (1951–1976) [1]
ChildrenJulie and Lorenzo [1]
ParentsCarlo Ferlinghetti (Italian) and Lyons Albertine Mendes-Monsanto (French) [1]

Lawrence Monsanto Ferlinghetti (born March 24, 1919) is an American poet, painter, socialist activist, and the co-founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers. He is the author of poetry, translations, fiction, theatre, art criticism, and film narration. Ferlinghetti is best known for his first collection of poems A Coney Island of the Mind (1958), which has been translated into nine languages, with sales of more than one million copies. [2]

Poet person who writes and publishes poetry

A poet is a person who creates poetry. Poets may describe themselves as such or be described as such by others. A poet may simply be a writer of poetry, or may perform their art to an audience.

Painting practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface

Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a solid surface. The medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush, but other implements, such as knives, sponges, and airbrushes, can be used. The final work is also called a painting.

Socialism is a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership of the means of production and workers' self-management, as well as the political theories and movements associated with them. Social ownership can be public, collective or cooperative ownership, or citizen ownership of equity. There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them, with social ownership being the common element shared by its various forms.

Contents

Early life

Lawrence Ferlinghetti was born on March 24, 1919, in Yonkers, New York. [3] His father died before he was born and he was separated from his mother after his birth. [4] He attended the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, where he earned a B.A. in journalism in 1941. He started in journalism by writing sports for The Daily Tar Heel , [5] and he published his first short stories in Carolina Magazine, for which Thomas Wolfe had written.

Yonkers, New York City in New York, United States

Yonkers is a city in Westchester County, New York. It is the fourth most populous city in the U.S. state of New York, behind New York City, Buffalo, and Rochester. The population of Yonkers was 195,976 as enumerated in the 2010 United States Census and is estimated to have increased by 2.5% to 200,807 in 2016. It is an inner suburb of New York City, directly to the north of the Bronx and approximately two miles (3 km) north of the northernmost point in Manhattan.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill public research university in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), also known as UNC-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, or simply Carolina is a public research university in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It is the flagship of the 17 campuses of the University of North Carolina system. After being chartered in 1789, the university first began enrolling students in 1795, which also allows it to be one of three schools to claim the title of the oldest public university in the United States. Among the claimants, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the only one to have held classes and graduated students as a public university in the eighteenth century.

<i>The Daily Tar Heel</i>

The Daily Tar Heel (DTH) is the independent student newspaper of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It was founded on February 23, 1893, and became a daily newspaper in 1929. The paper places a focus on university news and sports, but it also includes heavy coverage of Orange County and North Carolina. In 2016, the paper moved from five days a week in print to four, cutting the Tuesday edition. In 2017, the paper began to print on only Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. All editorial content is overseen by student editors and a volunteer student staff of about 230 people. It is the largest news organization in Orange County.

Following service in the U.S. Navy throughout World War II, Ferlinghetti earned a master's degree in English literature from Columbia University in 1947 with a thesis on John Ruskin and the British painter J. M. W. Turner. From Columbia, he went to Paris to continue his studies and earned a doctorate degree in comparative literature with a dissertation on the city as a symbol in modern poetry. [6]

Columbia University private Ivy League research university in New York City

Columbia University is a private Ivy League research university in Upper Manhattan, New York City. Established in 1754, Columbia is the oldest institution of higher education in New York and the fifth-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. It is one of nine colonial colleges founded prior to the Declaration of Independence, seven of which belong to the Ivy League. It has been ranked by numerous major education publications as among the top ten universities in the world.

John Ruskin 19th-century English writer and art critic

John Ruskin was the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, as well as an art patron, draughtsman, watercolourist, a prominent social thinker and philanthropist. He wrote on subjects as varied as geology, architecture, myth, ornithology, literature, education, botany and political economy.

J. M. W. Turner 18th and 19th-century British painter, water-colourist, and printmaker

Joseph Mallord William Turner, known as J. M. W. Turner and contemporarily as William Turner, was an English Romantic painter, printmaker and watercolourist. He is known for his expressive colourisations, imaginative landscapes and turbulent, often violent marine paintings.

Ferlinghetti met his future wife, Selden Kirby-Smith, granddaughter of Edmund Kirby-Smith, in 1946 aboard a ship en route to France. They both were heading to Paris to study at the Sorbonne. Kirby-Smith went by the name Kirby. [6]

Lawrence Ferlinghetti at the Grolier Poetry Bookshop in Harvard Square in 1965 with Gordon Cairnie, the owner of the store at the time Lawrence-ferlinghetti-by-elsa-dorfman.jpg
Lawrence Ferlinghetti at the Grolier Poetry Bookshop in Harvard Square in 1965 with Gordon Cairnie, the owner of the store at the time

As the owner of the bookstore City Lights, Ferlinghetti was arrested for publishing Allen Ginsberg's Howl , which resulted in a lengthy First Amendment trial. [7]

Allen Ginsberg American poet

Irwin Allen Ginsberg was an American poet, philosopher and writer. He is considered to be one of the leading figures of both the Beat Generation during the 1950s and the counterculture that soon followed. He vigorously opposed militarism, economic materialism and sexual repression and was known as embodying various aspects of this counterculture, such as his views on drugs, hostility to bureaucracy and openness to Eastern religions. He was one of many influential American writers of his time known as the Beat Generation, which included famous writers such as Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs.

Howl 1955 poem by Allen Ginsberg, part of the Beat Generation movement

"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.

First Amendment to the United States Constitution Law guaranteeing freedom of speech, religion, assembly, press and petitions and prohibiting establishment of an official religion

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prevents the government from making laws which respect an establishment of religion, prohibit the free exercise of religion, or abridge the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble, or the right to petition the government for redress of grievances. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights.

Poetry

A sample of Ferlinghetti's work at San Francisco's Jack Kerouac Alley, which is adjacent to the City Lights Bookstore Poetry is the shadow cast by our streetlight imaginations by Lawrence Ferlinghetti - Jack Kerouac Alley.jpg
A sample of Ferlinghetti's work at San Francisco's Jack Kerouac Alley, which is adjacent to the City Lights Bookstore

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. ...

Walt Whitman American poet, essayist and journalist

Walter "Walt" Whitman was an American poet, essayist, and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse. His work was very controversial in its time, particularly his poetry collection Leaves of Grass, which was described as obscene for its overt sexuality.

Mark Twain American author and humorist

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer. His novels include The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and its sequel, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), the latter often called "The Great American Novel".

Emily Dickinson American poet

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was an American poet.

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. [8] Yet Ferlinghetti does not consider himself to be a Beat poet, as he says in the 2013 documentary "Ferlinghetti: Rebirth of Wonder "Don't call me a Beat. I was never a Beat poet." [8]

Ferlinghetti penned much of his early poetry in the vein of T. S. Eliot. [9] Ferlinghetti told poet and critic Jack Foley, "Everything I wrote sounded just like him." [9] 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." [9]

Critics note that Ferlinghetti's poetry often takes on a very visual dimension as befits this poet who is also a painter. [10] As the poet and critic Jack Foley states, Farlinghetti's poems "tell little stories, make 'pictures'." [11] 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." [10] 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. [9] 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." [12]

Ferlinghetti takes 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. [13] 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." [4] This perception of art as a broad sociocultural force, as opposed to an elitist academic enterprise, is explicitly evident in Poem 9 from Pictures of the Gone World, wherein the speaker states: "'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. [14]

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 also notable for frequently incorporating jazz accompaniments into public readings of his work. [15]

Political engagement

Soon after settling in San Francisco in 1950, Ferlinghetti met the poet Kenneth Rexroth, whose concepts of philosophical anarchism influenced his political development. He self-identifies as a philosophical anarchist, regularly associated with other anarchists in North Beach, and he sold Italian anarchist newspapers at the City Lights Bookstore. [16] A critic of U.S. foreign policy, Ferlinghetti has taken a stand against totalitarianism and war.

While Ferlinghetti has expressed that he is "an anarchist at heart," he concedes that the world would need to be populated by "saints" in order for pure anarchism to be lived practically. Hence he espouses what can be achieved by Scandinavian-style democratic socialism. [17]

Ferlinghetti's work challenges the definition of art and the artist's role in the world. He urged poets to be engaged in the political and cultural life of the country. As he writes in Populist Manifesto: "Poets, come out of your closets, Open your windows, open your doors, You have been holed up too long in your closed worlds ... Poetry should transport the public / to higher places / than other wheels can carry it ..."

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. [18]

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." [19]

In March 2012 he added his support to the movement to save the Gold Dust Lounge, a historic Gold Rush-era bar in San Francisco, which lost its lease in Union Square.

Painting

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. [20]

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. [21]

Jack Kerouac Alley

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. [22]

Career Award Plaque conferred on 28 October 2017 at the Premio di Arti Letterarie Metropoli di Torino, Italy Premio Carriera Ferlinghetti.JPG
Career Award Plaque conferred on 28 October 2017 at the Premio di Arti Letterarie Metropoli di Torino, Italy

Awards

Ferlinghetti has 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 since then has been awarded the Premio Camaiore, the Premio Flaiano, the Premio Cavour, among other honors in Italy. The Career Award was conferred on 28 October 2017 at the XIV edition of the Premio di Arti Letterarie Metropoli di Torino in Turin. [23]

Ferlinghetti was named San Francisco's Poet Laureate in August 1998 and served for two years. In 2003 he was awarded the Robert Frost Memorial Medal, the Author's Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, and he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2003. 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. [20]

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 Orban, and his opinion that the ruling Hungarian government under Mr. Orban is curtailing civil liberties and freedom of speech for the people of Hungary. [24] [25] [26] [27]

The Italian band Timoria dedicated the song "Ferlinghetti Blues" (from the album El Topo Grand Hotel) to the poet, where Ferlinghetti recites one of his poems. Recordings of Ferlinghetti reading want ads, as featured on radio station KPFA in 1957, were recorded by Henry Jacobs and are featured on the Meat Beat Manifesto album 'At the Center'. Ferlinghetti gave Canadian punk band Propagandhi permission to use his painting The Unfinished Flag of the United States, which features a map of the world painted in the stars and stripes, as the cover of their 2001 release Today's Empires, Tomorrow's Ashes . Before this, the same painting was used for the cover of Michael Parenti's 1995 book, Against Empire, which was published by City Lights.

Ferlinghetti recited the poem Loud Prayer at The Band's final performance. Entitled The Last Waltz , this concert was filmed by Martin Scorsese and released as a documentary which included Ferlinghetti's recitation. Julio Cortázar, in his Rayuela (Hopscotch) (1963) references a poem by Ferlinghetti in Chapter 121. He appears as himself in the 2006 comedy film The Darwin Awards . Bob Dylan used Ferlinghetti's "Baseball Canto" on the Baseball show of Theme Time Radio Hour. Roger McGuinn, the former leader of the Byrds, referred to Ferlinghetti and "A Coney Island of the Mind" in his song "Russian Hill", from his 1977 album Thunderbyrd . Cyndi Lauper was inspired by A Coney Island of the Mind to write the song "Into the Nightlife" for her 2008 album Bring Ya to the Brink . Seamus McNally's 2007 filmed adaptation of Jacques Prévert's "To Paint the Portrait of a Bird" uses Ferlinghetti's English translation as its narrative text. The Residents mention Ferlinghetti in the lyrics of their song "Sinister Exaggerator" (from the EP "Duck Stab").

The Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps's 2008 marching show was entitled "Constantly Risking Absurdity", with movements entitled after various lines in Ferlinghetti's poem. The corps took second place at the Drum Corps International Finals. Aztec Two-Step is an American folk-rock band formed by Rex Fowler and Neal Shulman at a chance meeting on open stage at a Boston coffee house, the Stone Phoenix, in 1971. The band was named after a line from the poem "A Coney Island of the Mind" by Ferlinghetti. Bristol Sound band Unforscene used Ferlinghetti's poem "Pictures of the Gone World 11" (or "The World is a Beautiful Place ...") in the song "The World Is" on its 2002 album New World Disorder.

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 the artists of the exhibition Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Italy 150 held in Turin, Italy (May–June 2011). [28]

Christopher Felver made the 2013 documentary on Ferlinghetti, Lawrence Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder. [29]

Bibliography

Discography

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References

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  5. Zinser, Lynn (January 20, 2012). "Lawrence Ferlinghetti Revives His Love of the 49ers at 92". The New York Times.
  6. 1 2 Julian Guthrie (2012-09-24). "Lawrence Ferlinghetti's indelible image". SFGate. Retrieved 2014-02-18.
  7. Kaplan, Fred (September 24, 2010). "How 'Howl' Changed the World". Slate. ISSN   1091-2339.
  8. 1 2 Gold, Daniel (February 7, 2013). "A Beat Generation Star Who Won't Answer to that Name". New York Times . Retrieved November 4, 2018.
  9. 1 2 3 4 Foley, Jack (2008). "A Second Coming". Contemporary Poetry Review. Retrieved November 4, 2018.
  10. 1 2 Landauer, Susan and Carl (March 1, 2015). "Open Eye, Open Palette: The Art of Lawrence Ferlinghetti". Confrontation . Vol. 117 no. 17. pp. 93–108.
  11. Foley, Jack (2008). "A Second Coming". Contemporary Poetry Review. Retrieved November 4, 2018.
  12. Ferlinghetti, Lawrence (2015). A Coney Island of the Mind (50th Anniversary ed.). New Directions. p. 1. ISBN   9780811217477.
  13. "Lawrence Ferlinghetti". Poetry Foundation. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  14. Hopkins, Crale (1974). "The Poetry of Lawrence Ferlinghetti: A Reconsideration". Italian Americana . 1 (1): 59–76. JSTOR   29775818.
  15. Lawlor, William (2005). Beat Culture: Lifestyles, Icons, and Impact. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. pp. 34–37. ISBN   9781851094059 . Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  16. Kelly, Kevin (Winter 1988). "Lawrence Ferlinghetti – interview". Whole Earth Review (61). Archived from the original on 2009-06-28. "I'm in the anarchist tradition. By "anarchist" I don't mean someone with a homemade bomb in his pocket. I mean philosophical anarchism in the tradition of Herbert Reed in England."
  17. Felver, Christopher. 1996 The Coney Island of Lawrence Ferlinghetti. San Francisco: Mystic Fire Video [documentary film]
  18. "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest" January 30, 1968 New York Post
  19. "Poetry and City Culture". Address at the San Francisco Public Library, October 13th 1998. Accessed February 19, 2016.
  20. 1 2 "Lawrence Ferlinghetti Wins the John Ciardi Award for Lifetime Achievement in Poetry". Italian Americana. 26 (2): 167–170. 2008. JSTOR   41353794.
  21. Lawrence Ferlinghetti: 60 years of painting, edited by Giada Diano and Elisa Polimeni, Silvana Editoriale, Cinisello Balsamo (MI), 2009
  22. Nolte, Carl (March 30, 2007). "Kerouac Alley has face-lift". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved November 18, 2007.
  23. "Arte Città Amica". Arte Città Amica. Retrieved November 10, 2017.
  24. Christopher Young (October 12, 2012). "Beat this: Lawrence Ferlinghetti refuses Hungarian cash award". New York Daily News . Retrieved October 15, 2012.
  25. Carolyn Kellogg (October 11, 2012). "Lawrence Ferlinghetti declines Hungarian award over human rights". LA Times . Retrieved October 15, 2012.
  26. Ron Friedman and AP (October 13, 2012). "Following Elie Wiesel's Lead, US Poet Rejects Hungarian Award". The Times of Israel . Archived from the original on July 5, 2015. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
  27. Harriet Staff (October 11, 2012). "Lawrence Ferlinghetti Declines 50,000 Euro Prize from Hungarian PEN Club". Poetry Foundation . Retrieved October 15, 2012.
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  29. "A Beat-Generation Star Who Won't Answer to the Name". New York Times. Feb 7, 2013. Retrieved 26 May 2015.

Further reading