Owner of the San Francisco institution, City Lights Bookstore; publisher of the Pocket Poets series, including HOWL, which brought an obscenity suit to City Lights and global fame to Allen Ginsberg; poet of A Coney Island of the Mind, which has sold phenomenally for a book of poems in a country which doesn’t esteem poets; issuer of manifestos and proponent of poetry as a subversive art— like Mohandas Gandhi’s, Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s life has been his message.
Last year his publisher New Directions issued Ferlinghetti’s Greatest Poems, edited by Nancy J. Peters, Ferlinghetti’s long-time City Lights partner. Any avid Ferlinghetti fan will argue with the title, because each reader will note certain riveting works that are not included in this volume of 144 pages.
Yes, there is Rough Song of Animals Dying, but not An Elegy to Dispel Gloom.
History of the Airplane and Pity the Nation are here, but not Salute and Tall Tale of the Tall Cowboy.
I’ve shared Recipe for Happiness in Khabarovsk or Anyplace with scores of friends (page 66) but missing herein is In a Time of Revolution for Instance.
I first read Ferlinghetti in earnest in the middle of the Reagan years of the 1980s. His prophetic, engaged, and lyrical voice was a delight and a relief. Some of the poems from Coney Island were then and are now, worth rereading, such as “Christ Climbed Down” and “I Am Waiting.” Read the rest of this entry »