In June of 1955, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, co-founder of City Lights Bookstore, launched City Lights Publications with the Pocket Poets Series. The first volume was a collection of his own poems, Pictures of the Gone World, which has since become a classic of beat literature and one of Ferlinghetti's most popular works. Within a year City Lights had published its fourth, its most famous, and still its bestselling title, Allen Ginsberg's Howl and Other Poems, the book that revolutionized American poetry and American consciousness.
Ferlinghetti writes that the function of the independent press is to discover new voices and give them an audience. "From the beginning, the aim was to publish across the board, avoiding the provincial and the academic. I had rather an international insurgent ferment in mind, and what has proved most fascinating are the continuing crosscurrents and cross-fertilizations between poets and writers widely separated by language or geography, coalescing in a truly supranational voice."
For over fifty years, City Lights has been a champion of progressive thinking, fighting against the forces of conservatism and censorship. We are committed to publishing works of social responsibility, and to maintaining a tradition of bringing renegade literature from other parts of the world into English. In our function of discovery, we will continue to publish cutting-edge contemporary literature and brilliant new non-fiction.