Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lawrence Ferlinghetti: 90 Lyrical Years

Today is the 90th birthday of Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He has been the touchstone of generations of poetry readers; if you had never read poetry, somehow, somewhere, if you had the inclination to, you'd run into the work of Lawrence Ferlinghetti. It seems as though serendipity and that is his magic.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti is first and foremost a word magician (tired, I keyed musician, and he, of course is that, too: a word musician). His Coney Island of the Mind seems to be on everybody's list of best poetry books and deservedly so. Even so, he is hardly a one-trick pony. Here's a poem from his first collection, Pictures of the Gone World, published in 1955:


---------The world is a beautiful place
--------------------------------------------to be born into
if you don't mind happiness
------------------------------- ---not always being
--------------------------------------- --------- -- ---so very much fun
------if you don't mind a touch of hell
-----------------------------------------now and then
--------------just when everything is fine
-------------------------------------------------because even in heaven
--------------------------they don't sing
-------------------------------------------------all the time

------------The world is a beautiful place
-----------------------------------------to be born into
--------if you don't mind some people dying
------------------------------------------------------all the time
-----------------------or maybe only starving
---------------------------------------------------some of the time
--------------------which isn't half so bad
-------------------------------------------------if it isn't you

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Here's another from A Far Rockaway of the Heart, published 42 years later, in 1997:


In far-out poetry
---------------- ---the heart bleeds upon the page
--------as printer's ink bleeds onto
---------------------------------------the fine tooth of paper
As blood in its rage
-----------------------beats through the body
--------------------------------------------------blind in its courses
Leaving its indelible imprints
--------------------those fine tattoos of living
----------------------------------------------------known as poems
Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Finally from the 2001 collection, How to Paint Sunlight (not available via City Lights - o.p., maybe?), his beautiful elegy for the most beautiful Allen Ginsberg:

Allen Ginsberg is Dying
Allen Ginsberg is dying
It's in all the papers
It's on the evening news
A great poet is dying
But his voice
----------------won't die
His voice is on the land
In Lower Manhattan
in his own bed
he is dying
There is nothing
to do about it
He dying the death that everyone dies
He is dying the death of the poet
He has a telephone in his hand
and he calls everyone
from his bed in Lower Manhattan
All around the world
This is Allen
----------------the voice says
Allen Ginsberg calling
How many times have they heard it
over the long great years
He doesn't have to say Ginsberg
All around the world
in the world of poets
there is only one Allen
I want ed to you he says
He tells them what's happening
what's coming down
on him
Death the dark lover
going down on him
His voice goes by satellite
over the land
over the Sea of Japan
where he once stood naked
trident in hand
like a young Neptune
a young man with black beard
standing on a stone beach
It is high tide and the seabirds cry
The waves break over him now
and the seabirds cry
on the San Francisco waterfront
There is a high wind
There are great whitecaps
lashing the Embarcadero
Allen is on the telephone
His voice is on the waves
I am reading Greek poetry
The sea is in it
Horses weep in it
The horse of Achilles
weep in it
here by the sea
in San Francisco
where the waves weep
They make a sibilant sound
a sibylline sound
-------they whisper
Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Happy birthday, Mr. F. Send him a present; order a book or two of his work from City Lights Books, the finest independent shop in America. And, ah, what the hay, know how you like to give yourself a little something for your birthday, especially the older you get? Well, here's a little present from the younger Ferlinghetti (1955 again, this time "#2" from Pictures of a Gone World) to his older Lawrence-self, accompanied by the Pan-like, multi-faceted David Amram:


No Cover Art by Bobo

This week's back issue from the Lilliput Review Archive comes from April 1993, some nearly 16 odd years later. Odd might be the operative word, if the 16 years previous to those had not been a good deal odder. Here's four short flashes of times gone by:

Weak with Doubt
catching a butterfly
who was ready to suffer

The Right Moment
standing through the windshield
that the car behind you didn't have
Stacey Sollfrey

Getting ready
my mind walks out
of here

down flights of stairs

and glides to a gutter pigeon
its stiff body vibrating

to fly
Sanford Fraser

Ice Out
--------raging torrents, black waters rushing by
quiet nighttime hours, carrying whispers of
ancient female ghosts along on gentle river
winds, dusty voices, long gone pioneer wives
and mothers, once again searching for hope
amid new spring trilliums, wild cherry petals.
T. K. Splake

To finish, a greeting to spring from the master:

borrowing the umbrella-hat
sleeping sparrow
translated by David Lanoue

Enjoy it all - as long as autumn seems to linger, spring flies by.



Ed Baker said...



Larry A GEM!

I left 5 copies of Butcher of Oxen at City Lights

in 1970 on consignment 60-40

at $1.50 each... and I signed them..

have yet to ask him if he sold any copies..

so...I guess that Larry owes me $4.50?

I think that his book store has been designated a National Treasure or an Historic Place...

90 years "young"?


Poet Hound said...

I said a silent "wow" to the poems you posted for this issue. Wow.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Thanks, E & P - a double wow is what I was going after!

Anonymous said...

Lovely post! Here's another of LF's poems from the gone world: