Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Poet Who Nurtured the Beats, Dies at 101

“The scene shows fewer tumbrils, but more aloof citizens in painted cars. And they have strange license plates and engines that devour America. “Lawrence Ferlinghetti was a poet, a painter, a publisher, and a ceaseless political provocateur. “And I’m waiting for Voznesensky to turn on us tonight and speak love. And I’m waiting for Aphrodite to grow living weapons at a final disarmament conference. “He wrote one of the most popular books of poetry in print, was San Francisco’s first ever Poet Prize winner, and won the National Book Award. Perhaps best known is that Ferlinghetti became the spiritual godfather of the Beat movement when he opened City Lights Books in 1953 on a gravelly hillside of San Francisco. “I had no idea about a poetry scene here or anything. But if you have a bookstore, this is a place where poets naturally fall in and hang out. “City Lights became a testing ground for bohemian and beat writers and artists. Ferlinghetti soon expanded his reach by founding City Lights Press, which published the Pocket Poets Series. The first book was his own, “Pictures of the Past World”. “The dog trots freely in the street and sees reality, and the things he sees are bigger than himself.” The fourth was Allen Ginsberg’s explosive poem “Howl” that would shock the civilized world. “One day Allen Ginsberg presented me with his manuscript of ‘Howl’. I told him I would like to publish it, but we didn’t have any money. When I heard it out loud, I realized that this was going to start a revolution in American poetry. “” I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving, hysterical, naked and dragged themselves through the streets of the negroes at dawn in search of an angry solution. ” “It was a bit like the rock revolution in the 60s. When Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ came out, you haven’t heard from the old academic poetry for a long time. “’Howl’ got Ferlinghetti into a landmark First Amendment battle. “We sold it at City Lights Bookstore, and two officers from the youth department bought a copy of Shigeyoshi Murao, who was my manager at the time. Shig was arrested and I was charged as a publisher and bookseller. ” The fees? “Willful and indecent” publication of obscene writings. “The trial went to court. We had a wonderful number of witnesses on our side, the most impressive writers in the West. When the judge brought up his ruling, he said that a book cannot be judged obscene if it has the slightest redeeming social significance or social significance. And that precedent, even though it was only in the district court, lasted all these years. It is still very difficult to judge someone from obscene literature these days. “When The Times spoke to Mr Ferlinghetti in 2007, he was 88 years old and was still actively provocative. “I’m waiting for the next revolution. As a publisher, I always say you can’t publish a revolution if there isn’t one. “Lawrence Ferlinghetti was born in 1919 in Yonkers, north of New York City. His mother was sick and his father died before he was born. He was raised by an aunt who worked as a servant in the house of Presley Bisland, a southern gentleman who instilled a literary interest in the worried boy. “He was very much like Mark Twain. He was very funny and very educated. He would make me recite poetry at the dinner table and I would get a silver dollar if I could recite the poem perfectly. And I would start: “The Syrian came down like” – “No, no, young man, not like that.” And then it would thunder dramatically. Like i said i had an unhappy childhood, quote, quote so i escaped the lyric. When today’s life gets too terrible, there is the lyric escape. You can write a lyric poem or go out and look at the moon. Or you can put up with your best friend or whatever. This is the lyric escape. “Ferlinghetti studied journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After graduating in 1941, he joined the Navy. [explosions] On D-Day, Ferlinghetti commanded a ship protecting the invasion fleet in Normandy. “We were a submarine shield around the beaches. We didn’t have to land. And we could look through our binoculars and see these poor GI’s getting shot on the beaches. “After the slaughter in France, Ferlinghetti was transferred to Japan and arrived on Nagasaki shortly after the atomic bomb was dropped. “Japan could read its fate in the towering mushroom. This was more than a routine bomb attack. “As soon as I saw the ruined landscape, this scorched, scorched landscape where human flesh and teacups were melted together and bones, fingers and faces protruded from the mud and no upright building was in sight.” “Before the explosion, these were modern buildings, built like our own American factories.” “That made me a pacifist straight away.” Ferlinghetti decided to forge one of his lyrical escapes from the Navy and graduated from Columbia University and the Sorbonne in Paris with the GI law. In 1951 he went west to San Francisco. “I can see San Francisco from my window through some old Navy beer bottles. The glass is dark. Why is? In the immediate aftermath of World War II, so many people were uprooted as if the entire continent had tilted upward and the population slid westward. It’s still the final frontier. I had an old used car and was driving up Columbus Avenue. And I looked across the street to Columbus and Broadway and there was this guy putting up a sign that said, “Pocket Book Store”. I said do you open a bookstore? “Ferlinghetti decided to team up with this man, Peter Martin, to start a business specializing in a new kind of cheap softcover book, paperback.” Up until then, the only paperback books were available , Crime fiction and science fiction, so Peter Martin had the brilliant idea of ​​opening a paperback bookstore where you could find those books that you couldn’t find anywhere. From the beginning poets and writers came by because there was nothing else like them. When you went to another bookstore in town you couldn’t just sit down and read. You wanted – the clerk would be over you and ask you what you wanted, or could I help you? We actually ignored the readers. We ignored the customers, they practically had to hit the employees over the head to buy the book. ”Ferlinghetti went solo as Martin left town after a few years left, and the place became a literary meeting place for beat writers like Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Gary Snyder, Jack Kerouac and the heroes of his classic “On the Road”, Neal Cassady. “Neal Cassady rushed in. He left his Jalopy outside the door with the engine running and the door open. He would go in and get a copy of – and rush out. These are all free books, of course, that we gave to the poets. ” “It is already too late. Pentagon takes care of everything, and we do it on purpose as far as possible. “” The Pentagon? Tell me what … “” Well, I don’t know who runs the country. Are you doing? ” “The bookstore had this anarchist position from the start, which was not a bomb-throwing position. It was a pacifist position. “” Oh. ” [chanting] “I mean, I remember going to Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park in 1967.” [chanting] “Peace in San Francisco. Peace in Hanoi. “And I was sitting on the stage next to Allen Ginsberg, and in a moment he turns to me and says, ‘What if we’re all wrong?'” [chanting] “I wrote a poem called ‘Preliminary Description of a Dinner Against President Eisenhower’ and I now realize that Eisenhower was an angel compared to today’s federal government leaders.” “You know, you shouldn’t put down all the things that the beats and the hippies stood for. The expansion of consciousness is something completely new in poetry. Religious awareness – they turn to the Far East, for example. The first articulation of an ecological consciousness. So many things in our culture that we take for granted have emerged from this rebellion, this youth rebellion. “In 2001 City Lights was added to the San Francisco Historic Landmarks list. “Is Poetry Still Important Today?” “What did you put the word ‘still’ in there for? Yes, does poetry still play a role today? It is still – it is a “still”. All the different elements of the new civilization, the new culture of the 21st century, are in this “still”. And one day the brew will merge into a wonderful, new, intoxicating alcohol. “

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