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 (New Directions, 2007); Americus, Book I (New Directions, 2004); San Francisco Poems (City Lights Books, 2002); How to Paint Sunlight (New Directions, 2001); A Far Rockaway of the Heart (New Directions, 1997); These Are My Rivers: New & Selected Poems, 1955-1993 (New Directions, 1993); Over All the Obscene Boundaries: European Poems & Transitions (New Directions, 1984); Who Are We Now? (New Directions, 1976); The Secret Meaning of Things (New Directions, 1969); and A Coney Island of the Mind (New Directions, 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 of more than eight plays and of the novels Love in the Days of Rage (Overlook, 1988) and Her (New Directions, 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

Open Eye, Open Heart (New Directions, 1973)

Back Roads to Far Places (New Directions, 1971)

The Mexican Night (New Directions, 1970)

Tyrannus Nix? (New Directions, 1969)
The Secret Meaning of Things (New Directions, 1969)

Routines (New Directions, 1964)

Unfair Arguments with Existence (New Directions, 1963)

Starting from San Francisco (New Directions, 1961)
Her (New Directions, 1960)
A Coney Island of the Mind (New Directions, 1958)

Pictures of the Gone World (City Lights, 1955)

To the Oracle at Delphi

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 1919
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 Empire
vaster than any in ancient days
with its electronic highways
carrying its corporate monoculture
around the world
And English the Latin of our days--

Great Oracle, sleeping through the centuries, 
Awaken now at last
And tell us how to save us from ourselves
and how to survive our own rulers 
who would make a plutocracy of our democracy 
in the Great Divide
between the rich and the poor
in whom Walt Whitman heard America singing

O long-silent Sybil, 
you of the winged dreams, 
Speak out from your temple of light 
as the serious constellations 
with Greek names
still stare down on us 
as a lighthouse moves its megaphone 
over the sea
Speak out and shine upon us 
the sea-light of Greece 
the diamond light of Greece

Far-seeing Sybil, forever hidden, 
Come out of your cave at last 
And speak to us in the poet's voice 
the voice of the fourth person singular 
the voice of the inscrutable future 
the voice of the people mixed
with a wild soft laughter--
And give us new dreams to dream, 
Give us new myths to live by!

Read at Delphi, Greece, on March 21, 2001 at the UNESCO World Poetry Day

Reprinted from San Francisco Poems by permission of City Lights Foundation. Copyright © 2001 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. All rights reserved.

Reprinted from San Francisco Poems by permission of City Lights Foundation. Copyright © 2001 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. 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 Booksellers & Publishers in San Francisco.

by this poet

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

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.

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