poem index

About this poet

On March 24, 1919, Lawrence Ferlinghetti was born in Yonkers, New York. After spending his early childhood in France, he received his BA from the University of North Carolina, an MA from Columbia University, and a PhD from the Sorbonne.

During World War II he served in the US Naval Reserve and was sent to Nagasaki shortly after it was bombed. He married in 1951 and has one daughter and one son.

In 1953, Ferlinghetti and Peter Martin began to publish City Lights magazine. They also opened the City Lights Books Shop in San Francisco to help support the magazine. In 1955, they launched City Light Publishing, a book-publishing venture. City Lights became known as the heart of the "Beat" movement, which included writers such as Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac.

Ferlinghetti is the author of more than thirty books of poetry, including Time of Useful Consciousness (New Directions, 2012); Poetry as Insurgent Art (2007); Americus, Book I (2004); San Francisco Poems (2002); How to Paint Sunlight (2001); A Far Rockaway of the Heart (1997); These Are My Rivers: New & Selected Poems, 1955-1993 (1993); Over All the Obscene Boundaries: European Poems & Transitions (1984); Who Are We Now? (1976); The Secret Meaning of Things (1969); and A Coney Island of the Mind (1958). He has translated the work of a number of poets including Nicanor Parra, Jacques Prevert, and Pier Paolo Pasolini. Ferlinghetti is also the author more than eight plays and of the novels Love in the Days of Rage (1988) and Her (1966).

In 1994, San Francisco renamed a street in his honor. He was also named the first Poet Laureate of San Francisco in 1998. His other awards and honors include the lifetime achievement award from the National Book Critics Circle in 2000, the Frost Medal in 2003, and The Literarian Award in 2005 presented “for outstanding service to the American literary community.”

Currently, Ferlinghetti writes a weekly column for the San Francisco Chronicle. He also continues to operate the City Lights bookstore, and he travels frequently to participate in literary conferences and poetry readings.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Pictures of the Gone World (1955)
A Coney Island of the Mind (1958)
Her (1960)
Starting from San Francisco (1961)
Unfair Arguments with Existence (1963)
Routines (1964)
The Secret Meaning of Things (1969)
Tyrannus Nix? (1969)
The Mexican Night (1970)
Back Roads to Far Places (1971)
Open Eye, Open Heart (1973)

Americus, Book I [excerpt]

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 1919

I.

To summarize the past by theft and allusion
With a parasong a palimpsest
A manuscreed writ over
A graph of consciousness at  best
A consciousness of   felt life
A rushing together 
Of the raisins of wrath
Of living and dying
The laughter and forgetting
The maze and amaze of life.

From Americus, Book I by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Copyright © 2004 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Reprinted by permission of New Directions. All rights reserved.

 

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Poet and translator, Lawrence Ferlinghetti is the author of more than thirty books of poetry and the founder of City Lights Books Shop in San Francisco

by this poet

poem
Great Oracle, why are you staring at me,
do I baffle you, do I make you despair?
I, Americus, the American,
wrought from the dark in my mother long ago,
from the dark of ancient Europa--
Why are you staring at me now
in the dusk of our civilization--
Why are you staring at me
as if I were America itself
the new
poem
The changing light
                 at San Francisco
       is none of your East Coast light
                none of your
                            pearly light of Paris
The light of San Francisco
                        is a sea light
                                       an island light
And the light of fog
poem

I am signaling you through the flames.

The North Pole is not where it used to be.

Manifest Destiny is no longer manifest.

Civilization self-destructs.

Nemesis is knocking at the door.

What are poets for, in such an age?
What is the use of poetry?

The state of the world calls