Thursday, 28 February 2008

Wild Dreams of a New Beginning - Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Lawrence Ferlinghetti has been described as one of our 'ageless radicals and true bards'. Before I picked up this collection of his, I took that description with a pinch of salt, being very used to finding highly praised poets to often be disappointing in the reading. However in this case there was no disappointment at all. Ferlinghetti's poetry is well crafted, vivid, passionate and engaged with life. He also has a strong environmental consciousness. Seascape with Sun and Eagle describes an eagle in a beautiful meditative style with a poignant ending, Alienation: Two Bees focuses on the communication and sense of community in bees, Billboard Painters outlines the history of how colonialisation has destroyed natural beauty over and over again. Many other of his poems have an environmental message running through them or referenced, for example in A Nation of Sheep:

The little Cessna flies low
over the socked in snowfields
It's a late spring silent spring

makes discreet reference to Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring. But Ferlinghetti also has a light touch, in Populist Manifesto, he nods at Allen Ginsberg's Howl (which he published) with these lines:

We have seen the best minds of our generation
destroyed by boredom at poetry readings.

I can't imagine anyone being destroyed by boredom at Ferlinghetti's readings!


Vincent said...

I think of all poets Ferlinghetti is my true favourite and that on the basis of a single poem which sticks in my mind over the decades:

Away above a harborful of caulkless houses

I've linked to a full version of the poem with the original typography.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Thanks Vincent, that's a poem i hadn't read and yes it is wonderful.

Anonymous said...

LF is a treasure. What a beautiful voice of dissent. Thanks for reminding.

Scot said...

Well, what he does is take a stand in his writing--good review, but boredom can set in at these things when everybody sounds the same. I have some stories about LF, but will leave those for another time

Crafty Green Poet said...

Scot - yes, point taken, but few people do sound like Ferlinghetti, specially these days in the UK (where I am).

S Thomas - yes he is a treasure, absolutely

Debi said...


Would you (and Gerald) contact me at the email address, myhermitude at cfl dot rr dot com ? I'd like to bring up an idea with you both.



Janice Thomson said...

Love your links Juliet - I always end up some 4 or 5 sites further down - grin
LF is definitely a good read.

Anonymous said...

He's always been kind of in the shadow of the more famous beat poets, partly I think because of the lightness of his touch, a kind of quiet humanity and sense of humour. A wonderful poet.

RG said...

No, Ferlinghetti is still awful popular in San F. and his bookshop is still there, I'm pretty sure. Coney Island of the Mind is always on our top shelf!

Anonymous said...

I too love this poem. Additionally, I feel so blessed to live in San Francisco. City Lights Books is indeed still there and Mr. Ferlinghetti can often be spotted hanging signs in the windows above the shop or walking the streets of North Beach. I believe he is a National Treasure.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Dear Crafty Green Poet, I remember Lawrence Ferlinghetti as one of the poets I enjoyed read when I hardly spoke English in the early 70's, I read him with the Italian translation on the side page.
Together with him I can't forget Gregory Corso with his "Gasoline" collection, some marvellously deranged lines are still in my mind:
Oh people my people
a cannibal arrived in Harlem last night
and ate up a canal.

I am not sure it's an exact memory, but I still like this and I don't know why.

Bill said...

Don't know about fahionable, but I've been reading Ferlinghetti more than ever in the last couple of years. It's when I started writing myself that he became important to me.

Anonymous said...

I still have my original 1967 copy of Starting From San Francisco, complete with mini-LP tucked into the rear board. At college we used to sit with lights dimmed listening to that dry voice. So far from the histrionics of those Beats who merely wanted to be Charlie Parker/Dizzy Gillespie on words.