Saturday, September 08, 2007

Lawrence Ferlinghetti at 88

The picture of resiliency

By The Commentator

Lawrence Ferlinghetti (born 1919 in Yonkers, New York), is a prominent and internationally renowned American poet, artist, publisher and recipient of various honors and awards.

After earing a master's degree from Columbia University and studying in Paris at the Sorbonne, Ferlinghetti followed the urging of fellow American poet Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982) to go to San Francisco, one of the strongholds of the burgeoning counter-culture dubbed 'The Beat Generation'. Shortly after his arrival, Ferlinghetti started a bookstore and publishing house in 1953, named after the Charlie Chaplin film, City Lights, and specializing in poetry. Its most famous publication was 'Howl', the controversial and legendary book by Allen Ginsberg.

A Famous Landmark
The "Beats" were a loosely defined group of young and struggling American writers, students, anti-conformists, bohemians, hustlers, and drug addicts who emerged in the late 1950 - early 1960s and spawned such groundbreaking novels as Jack Kerouac's 'On the Road' (1957) and William S. Burroughs's 'Naked Lunch' (1959).
Ironically, these works, formerly labelled as 'progressive and provocative', have now become pseudo-classics, time-stamped, stereotyped and pidgeonholed.

While most of his notorious compatriots have come and gone, Ferlinghetti has weathered the changing times and tides with remarkable resilience. Over the years he smoothly transitioned from pacifist, to anarchist, to teacher, to businessman, to Poet Laureate, to feted celebrity - all in a life's work.

Ferlinghetti is the author of more than thirty books of poetry and eight plays as well as fiction, art criticism, and essays. His poems are simple and speak plainly.

One of his paintings

Settled down in the tranquil and beautiful surroundings of the Marin County seashore and somewhat reclusive, Ferlinghetti, now 88, still continues to paint, exhibit and sell his artwork. He can be spotted at his art show openings as well as at the occasional literary event here and abroad.

"It seemed to me
all you have to do
is conceive of the whole world
and all humanity
as a kind of artwork,"

Lawrence Ferlinghetti,
'Instructions to Painters and Poets'

  • See also: Lawrence Ferlinghetti about the poet Ana Elsner

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