The Poets Plaza

 

 

 

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. The proposed square will be located on Vallejo Street between Columbus and Grant Avenue, a historic bohemian gathering place. Click here to read a letter from Lawrence Ferlinghetti about how to be a part of creating the Plaza.

 
 

A Brief Biography of
Lawrence Ferlinghetti

A prominent voice of the wide-open poetry movement that began in the 1950s, Lawrence Ferlinghetti has written poetry, translation, fiction, theater, art criticism, film narration, and essays. Often concerned with politics and social issues, Ferlinghetti's poetry countered the literary elite's definition of art and the artist's role in the world. Though imbued with the commonplace, his poetry cannot be simply described as polemic or personal protest, for it stands on his craftsmanship, thematics, and grounding in tradition.

Ferlinghetti was born in Yonkers in 1919, son of Carlo Ferlinghetti who was from the province of Brescia and Clemence Albertine Mendes-Monsanto. Following his undergraduate years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he served in the U.S. Navy in World War II as a ship's commander. He received a Master's degree from Columbia University in 1947 and a Doctorate de l'Université de Paris (Sorbonne) in 1950. From 1951 to 1953, when he settled in San Francisco, he taught French in an adult education program, painted, and wrote art criticism. In 1953, with Peter D. Martin, he founded City Lights Bookstore, the first all-paperbound bookshop in the country, and by 1955 he had launched the City Lights publishing house.

The bookstore has served for half a century as a meeting place for writers, artists, and intellectuals. City Lights Publishers began with the Pocket Poets Series, through which Ferlinghetti aimed to create an international, dissident ferment. His publication of Allen Ginsberg's Howl & Other Poems in 1956 led to his arrest on obscenity charges, and the trial that followed drew national attention to the San Francisco Renaissance and Beat movement writers. (He was overwhelmingly supported by prestigious literary and academic figures, and was acquitted.) This landmark First Amendment case established a legal precedent for the publication of controversial work with redeeming social importance.

Ferlinghetti's paintings have been shown at various galleries around the world, from the Butler Museum of American Painting to Il Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome. He has been associated with the international Fluxus movement through the Archivio Francesco Conz in Verona. He has toured Italy, giving poetry readings in Roma, Napoli, Bologna, Firenze, Milano, Verona, Brescia, Cagliari, Torino, Venezia, and Sicilia. He won the Premio Taormino in 1973, and since then has been awarded the Premio Camaiore, the Premio Flaiano, the Premio Cavour. among others. He is published in Italy by Oscar Mondadori, City Lights Italia, and Minimum Fax. He was instrumental in arranging extensive poetry tours in Italy produced by City Lights Italia in Firenze. He has translated from the Italian Pier Paolo Pasolin's Poemi Romani, which is published by City Lights Books. In San Francisco, his work can regularly be seen at the George Krevsky Gallery at 77 Geary Street.

Ferlinghetti's A Coney Island of the Mind continues to be the most popular poetry book in the U.S. It has been translated into nine languages, and there are nearly 1,000,000 copies in print. The author of poetry, plays, fiction, art criticism, and essays, he has a dozen books currently in print in the U.S., and his work has been translated in many countries and in many languages. His most recent books are A Far Rockaway of the Heart (1997), How to Paint Sunlight (2001), and Americus Book I (2004) published by New Directions.

He has been the recipient of numerous prizes, including the Los Angeles Times' Robert Kirsch Award, the BABRA Award for Lifetime Achievement, the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Award for Contribution to American Arts and Letters, the American Civil Liberties Union's Earl Warren Civil Liberties Award. Ferlinghetti was named San Francisco's Poet Laureate in August 1998, and he used his post as a bully-pulpit from which he articulated the seldom-heard "voice of the people." In 2003 he was awarded the Robert Frost Memorial Medal, the Author's Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, and he was elected to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters.

 

 

   
photo Lawrence Ferlinghetti reading

Books by Lawrence Ferlinghetti


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Blasts Cries Laughter
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
A new, shorter collection by America's preeminent living poet and social activist, who is just as fiery and provocative as ever at 94 years old. Lawrence Ferlinghetti's Blasts contains blasts, blessings, and curses in the vortex of today, taking its cues from the original little magazine, Blast, published by Wyndham Lewis with Ezra Pound...

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At Sea
A Poem for Pablo Neruda
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
EXCLUSIVELY AVAILABLE AT CITY LIGHTS! Exquisite handmade letterpress edition of Lawrence Ferlinghetti's new poem, "At Sea".

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Time of Useful Consciousness
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Lawrence Ferlinghetti's first book since Poetry as Insurgent Art, a new call to action and a vivid picture of civilization moving towards its brink. New Directions is proud to announce a riveting and galvanizing new book by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

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A Coney Island of the Mind
50th Anniversary Edition (with CD)
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
A million copies in print—translated into over a dozen languages—one of the best-selling and most popular books of poetry ever published, now available in a new hardcover edition containing a CD of the author reading his work. Ferlinghetti is a...

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Poetry As Insurgent Art
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
After a lifetime, this (r)evolutionary little book is still a work-in-progress, the poet's ars poetica, to which at 88 he is constantly adding. From the groundbreaking (and bestselling) A Coney Island of the Mind in 1958 to the "personal epic" of...

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Americus, Book I
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Lawrence Ferlinghetti lights out for the territories with Book I of his own born-in-the-U.S.A. epic, Americus. Describing Americus as "part documentary, part public pillow-talk, part personal epic—a descant, a canto unsung, a banal history, a true...

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A Coney Island of the Mind
Poems
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
The title of this book is taken from Henry Miller's Into the Night Life. In it, Ferlinghetti expresses the way he felt during a short period in the 1950s.

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Starting from San Francisco
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
The poet's early travels in North America, South America, and Europe. Includes some psychedelia.

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Pictures of the Gone World
Pocket Poets Number 1
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Published to celebrate forty years of City Lights publishing, which began with the letterpress printing of this book in 1955. It was Lawrence Ferlinghetti's first book, and it has been reprinted twenty-one times, having never been out of print. The...

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The Secret Meaning of Things
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Six long poems including "Assassination Raga" -- on the death of the Kennedys.

See more books by Lawrence Ferlinghetti