Lawrence Ferlinghetti declines the 2012 Pannonius Prize
San Francisco, CA, October 10, 2012—In September 2012 it was announced in Budapest that Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poet and founder of City Lights Books in San Francisco, had been chosen as a recipient of the Pannonius Prize. The prize, funded by the Hungarian government and the Hungarian chapter of PEN International, grants an award of 50,000 euros, and Ferlinghetti was to be its first recipient.
While honored to be chosen and recognized, Lawrence Ferlinghetti has been a resolute supporter of freedom of expression his entire life. Given that the Hungarian government is widely accused of officially and unofficially stifling free speech and civil liberties, Ferlinghetti has decided to decline the award.
USF announces Lawrence Ferlinghetti Poetry Fellowship
San Francisco, CA, October 10, 2012 ― The MFA in Writing Program at the University of San Francisco announces the Lawrence Ferlinghetti Poetry Fellowship. This fellowship honors a San Francisco writer who, in his long career as poet, activist, and co-founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, published and supported the work of writers who were outsiders— outside traditional academia or traditional social conventions.
In 1956, after he published Allen Ginsberg's Howl & Other Poems, Ferlinghetti was tried and acquitted on obscenity charges in a landmark First Amendment case. MFA poetry professor D. A. Powell noted that "the Howl trial changed the culture of American poetry overnight and paved the way for a more open, expansive poetics—for poetry that confronted American hypocrisies and political institutions, willing to put its proverbial heart on the line." According to Catherine Brady, academic director of the MFA program, "When Ferlinghetti founded City Lights Pocket Poets' Series, paperbacks cost only a quarter and weren't considered a serious literary venue. It was Ferlinghetti's genius to see this as an opportunity for enacting a more inclusive and truly democratic vision of poetry. In his paperback publications, he gave many readers their first experience of poets such as Allen Ginsberg, Diane Di Prima, Denise Levertov, and Robert Duncan. As a poet and as a staunch defender of free speech, Ferlinghettti exemplifies the humanistic ideals of the university, which is committed to cultivating a strong sense of responsibility for the collective good."
The Lawrence Ferlinghetti Poetry Fellowship provides full tuition funding and is awarded bi- annually to an applicant in poetry whose work embodies a concern for social justice and freedom of expression, interpreted in the broadest possible way. Applicants are encouraged to visit the USF MFA program website for more information.
June 23rd through September 23rd, 2012, the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art honors the creative life of Lawrence Ferlinghetti with the exhibition Cross-Pollination: The Art of Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti's work, in both literature and art, is a drive for liberation, transformation, and union—through love, literature, political struggle, nature, humor, art. The exhibition focuses on key themes that have occupied the artist and poet throughout his creative life, in both word and image.
The Sonoma Valley Museum of Art is located at 551 Broadway in Sonoma, and they're open Weds through Sun, 11am– 5pm. Admission is $5; free for students in grades K-12. Free for all visitors every Weds! More info at www.svma.org or by calling (707) 939-7862.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Roberta Smith and Beverly James Honored
at San Francisco Art Institute's 2012 Commencement Ceremony
The San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI), one of the nation's oldest and most prestigious contemporary art colleges, is proud to honor famed art critic Roberta Smith; Bay Area poet, painter, activist and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti; and long-time SFAI Trustee Beverly James at the Institute’s 134th Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 12th. All three are being recognized for their outstanding achievements in shaping contemporary art, culture, and discourse—for driving public awareness of emerging issues and ideas in the visual arts. Smith will be the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts, Ferlinghetti the Douglas MacAgy Distinguished Achievement Award, and James a special distinction for her many years as an SFAI Trustee, Trustee Emeritus, and Chair of the Board. At the ceremony, Smith and Ferlinghetti will celebrate the graduating class of 2012 by sharing their reflections.
Read more here
THE POETS' PLAZA
Creating a national forum for poets and a secular urban park in historic North Beach San Francisco
The Poets' Plaza will be an oasis for San Franciscans and a national site for poets, a kind of national poetry forum, with a permanent poets' podium built into one corner of the square. There will also be chess tables, stone benches, and olive trees.
And quotations from some 40 great poets from around the world will be incised in the paving of the Plaza.
Inspired by the lovely piazzas of Italy, the Poets Plaza will be free of all traffic, an essential link between the neighborhood's major thoroughfares, Grant and Columbus Avenues, in the 600 block of Vallejo Street, between the landmark National Shrine of Saint Francis and Caffe Trieste, historic bohemian gathering place.
The Poets Plaza is a civic project created by neighborhood volunteers, donations, and community grants. The Chinatown Community Development Center, North Beach Merchants Association, Telegraph Hill Dwellers, North Beach Citizens, and hundreds of local residents have already offered their qualified support of the project. The Mayor's office and the City planning Department are enthusiastic about the concept.
The total cost of installation will be close to three million. We are hoping that anyone interested in working with us, and especially potential donors, will now contact us through our website, a 501 (C)( 3) tax deductible, non-profit entity: POETSPLAZA.ORG
City Lights Books, the shop where beat was born
A San Francisco bookshop helped to raise the consciousness of a generation, and its founder has now entered his tenth decade
by Tania Ketenjian
The Times of London
In the second-storey windows of City Lights Books in North Beach, San Francisco, a passer-by can see what the founder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, calls his "blog", in bold, painted letters on ruffled drawing paper, filling the glass.
Statements such as "REWRITE THE LAW AND CORPORATIONS" and "MAKE TRAINS NOT TRUCKS" face a street of strip bars in this Italian neighbourhood. Drunkards and bakers, film-makers and prostitutes walk the streets around Jack Kerouac Alley, named after the infamous Beat poet who frequented City Lights Books for many years.
City Lights is more than just a bookstore, it is a place of pilgrimage. In the 1950s, tour buses would stop in front of it so that people could get a glimpse of real "beatniks". It was here that Allen Ginsberg's Howl first appeared, changing the landscape of poetry and publishing. City Lights was the first all-paperback book store in the country and it was dedicated to selling banned books. Its early publications of poetry have become classics — from Frank O'Hara's Lunch Poems to Gregory Corso's Gasoline. And Ferlinghetti, who turned 90 earlier this year, is the man behind it all. Read more...
New signs in the windows of City Lights by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
"He's no revolutionary. Obama is a centrist."
Lawrence Ferlinghetti interviewed by Calvin White
Excerpt from the Toronto Globe and Mail, March 7, 2009
"Calvin White: One of the things Obama had done, he's captured the interest of the young.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti: I'm afraid that a lot of the young who think he is a revolutionary will be sadly disappointed. . . . I was in France this spring and summer and there were newspapers like our own Life magazine, complete issues devoted to Obama. On the covers they had 'Obamamania' and 'Revolution Obama.'
I was at a literary conference and they had one after another speaking praising speaker praising Obama, so I had to get up and say, 'Well, I'm from the Left Coast and we have a different view of Obama and, if you notice, the word revolution is never used by the Obama campaign, and in fact, no matter how many bad things the government does, the American people don't want to be disturbed in their pursuit of happiness. They're not going to have a revolution.
Calvin White: So, there hope for the future?
Lawrence Ferlinghetti: I don't know. It's pretty dim these days. Well, there's some hope with Obama. He's going to be a centrist and he might get some stuff done. Obama should try to rewrite the law on corporations. It really needs to be done. They have too much power over the people.
Also, we need to have elections by popular vote; in other words, abolish the Electoral College. The Electoral College was set up by the founders of the United States to protect the interest of the landowning class... If you want true democracy, we need to have elections by popular vote. And it's possible that, if Obama gets two terms, some time in the second term, we might be able to change things like that.
FDR was not at all radical when he first took office. He actually said to people who wanted radical change, 'Well, make me do it.' I hope that's what happens with Obama, that they'll make him do it. It depends on the youth to do it though. The whole new generation's got to do that."
January 2009: A new sign by Lawrence Ferlinghetti for the bookstore:
for the London INDEPENDENT
It has long been an idealist dream that someday society and life on earth would evolve in such a way that dissident writers and intellectuals would no longer have to be dissident.
There are similarities between Obama and John Francis Kennedy, but they do not point to any real political or social revolution. JFK was not a revolutionary, and he would not have turned into one if he had lived. Obama too is no revolutionary, even if Abraham Lincoln is his role model.
Unbridled capitalism has recently proved to lead to economic disaster, capitalist triumphs often being achieved at the expense of the poor. This leads to the conclusion that such a predatory system is an enemy of true democracy.
We might very well have a Camelot Moment if Obama is elected, and we will certainly heave a huge sigh of relief to have someone in the not-so-White House who is an honest thinker and not a rogue President. But don't expect global corporate capitalism to be morphed into some kind of benevolent system in which the gulf between Haves and Have-nots no longer exists.
There may be a Camelot Moment, but dissidents can only hope the new President will succeed in humanizing capitalism, if not taming it, and thus might that Camelot Moment become a Camelot Epoch.
—Lawrence Ferlinghetti, October 2008
San Francisco Chronicle names the 50th Anniversary Edition of Lawrence Ferlinghetti's A Coney Island of the Mind one of the top 50 books of 2008!
OpenRoad TV takes a tour through North Beach with Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Watch it here!
Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Shakespeare & Co.
William Lawlor, Special to The Capital Times, 4/24/2008
"The world is a beautiful place / to be born into," writes Lawrence Ferlinghetti, author of "A Coney Island of the Mind," the witty, engaging, yet often disturbing little book of poems that now has been in print for 50 years.
"The world is a beautiful place / to be born into," Ferlinghetti writes, "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." ...
Paul McHugh, San Francisco Chronicle, Saturday, November 11, 2006
A famed and well-loved literary figure strolls streets and alleys of North Beach in San Francisco. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 87, has pale blue eyes accented by a fringe of white hair. His tall, slender form is held erect with gentle, patrician dignity. If you didn't know this Beat poet and City Lights bookstore co-founder was a big star of the counterculture, you might think he has a military bearing.
Literarians: An Endangered Species?
(delivered November 16, 2005 at the National Book Awards on receiving the Literarian Award for outstanding service to the literary community)
That the National Book Foundation saw fit to create a new award of Literarian at its annual prize-giving ceremony in New York this past November 16 is certainly a recognition that literacy itself is under attack in our electronic age and needs to be recognized and rewarded.
"Literarian" sounds a bit Old School, and the word probably had its roots in some Ivy League or English cloister. A smart friend of mine told me, "It's for old guys." I hope not. Above all, it must be for the young.
I come from a generation that assumed you would know the allusion when someone referred to Prufrock or Stephen Dedalus, Maud Gonne or Godot, Penelope's unraveling her weaving at night, or Dover Beach or Walden Pond, or lilacs that last in the dooryard bloomed. The absence of writers of color from this canon is shocking, but no one thought of that back then, in the last White century.
Today, with the continuing dumbing down of America, literarians are definitely an endangered species, to the point that articles have to be written to define the term. It's not true President Bush believes that anyone caught reading a book should be banned from government. But the barbarians are certainly at the gates, and our dominant commercial culture welcomes them.
This culture may globalize the world, devastating indigenous historic traditions, but it is not our mainstream culture. The true mainstream is made, not of oil, but of writers and readers, musicians and composers, editors and publishers, bookstores and libraries and universities, and all the institutions that support them.
And this is the culture that will survive, if anything survives, after the electricity goes off and all electronic civilization fades away, when Nature strikes back in retaliation for what we're doing to it. Coming soon to your local theater, the Day After Tomorrow.
There's much finger pointing as to who is most guilty in all this. Some say it's the omnivorous consumer culture. Some say it's the old military-industrial perplex. Some say it's the result of the predatory cabal of the military and the corporations. Of course, it's all of these, plus overpopulation, which is the root to which most major world problems can be traced. Take your choice.
And then it would be quite helpful if you went out and did something about it. As Scoop Nisker used to say on his KSAN talk show, "If you don't like the news, go out and make some of your own."
After all, in spite of illiteracy, war, and the assault on nature –
ARE THERE NOT STILL FIREFLIES
Are there not still fireflies Are there not still four-leaf clovers
Is not our land still beautiful Our fields not full of armed enemies
Our cities never bombed to oblivion Never occupied by iron armies
speaking iron tongues Are not our warriors still valiant
ready to defend us Are not our senators still wearing fine togas
Are we not still a great people Is this not still a free country
Are not our fields still ours our gardens still full of flowers
our ships with full cargoes
Why then do some still fear the barbarians are coming
coming coming in their huddled masses
(What is that sound that fills the ear drumming drumming?)
Is not Rome still Rome
Is not Los Angeles still Los Angeles Are these really the last days of the Roman Empire
Is not beauty still beauty
And truth still truth Are there not still poets
Are there not still lovers Are there not still mothers
sisters and brothers Is there not still a full moon
once a month
Are there not still fireflies Are there not still stars at night
Can we not still see them in bowl of night
signalling to us our so-called manifest destinies?