Ferlinghetti, Lawrence

(1919– )
   Writer, publisher, bookseller, painter, activist, newspaper columnist, and navy veteran, Ferlinghetti’s most famous works are the poetry collections pictures of tHe Gone world (1955) and a coney island of tHe mind (1958), but he is also the author of plays, travel books, columns, reviews, and novels. City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco and City Lights Books, the publishing house responsible for the Pocket Poets Series, have been under Ferlinghetti’s direction for more than a half-century, providing opportunities for publication, promotion, and sales to Beat writers in particular and to dissident and experimental writers in general. As an activist, Ferlinghetti has fought against censorship, overpopulation, militarism, racism, and worldwide economic and environmental abuses and in favor of freedom of expression, human rights, and just treatment of developing countries. Although he is clearly tied to the Beat literary movement as a writer, publisher, and bookseller, his career goes well beyond Beat boundaries, making him a noteworthy figure in the arts of the second half of the 20th century. Ferlinghetti, the youngest of five brothers, was born March 24, 1919, in Yonkers, New York. His father, Charles Ferling, died seven months before Ferlinghetti’s birth; his mother, Clemence Mendes– Monsanto, entered a mental hospital soon after Ferlinghetti’s birth. Before the child was a year old, his mother’s aunt, Emily Mendes–Monsanto, took responsibility for the child, left her husband, and made a new home in France. Thus, Ferlinghetti’s first language was French, but in 1924 he and his great-aunt Emily returned to Bronxville, New York, where Emily Mendes–Monsanto tutored the children of the Bisland family. In 1925 Mendes– Monsanto disappeared, leaving Ferlinghetti in the care of the Bislands. During his youth, Ferlinghetti went by his father’s name, Ferling, but in writing a review for Art Digest in 1954, he reclaimed the full family name of Ferlinghetti and used it thereafter. Ferlinghetti attended Riverside Country School, Bronxville Public School, and Mount Hermon High School, a private school near Greenfield, Massachusetts (the birthplace of herbert huncke). Interested in Thomas Wolfe, Ferlinghetti enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, completing a degree in journalism in 1941. After returning from military service, he attended Columbia University in New York (as did jack kerouac and allen ginsberg before him) in 1947, writing a thesis about painter J. M. W. Turner and the influences of John Ruskin on Turner. In 1947 Ferlinghetti took advantage of the G. I. Bill to pursue doctoral studies at the Sorbonne in Paris. In 1949 he completed in French a dissertation entitled “The City as Symbol in Modern Poetry: In Search of a Metropolitan Tradition.” Ferlinghetti’s military service (1941–45) earned him distinction and had lasting influence on him. During the invasion of Normandy, he was the commanding officer on a sub chaser, and before leaving the navy, he earned the rank of lieutenant commander. His tour of duty let him see the world, including England, France, both coasts of the United States, the Pacific Islands, and Panama, but the most indelible impression was made in Japan, where he saw the devastation of the atomic bomb in Nagasaki only six weeks after the explosion. This horrible scene made Ferlinghetti an unshakable opponent of war and its horrors. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, San Francisco, 1965. Photographer Larry Keenan: “This photograph was taken in the basement of City Lights. Ferlinghetti told me that City Lights used to be a Holy Roller church and that he had left up the Biblical tracts on the walls. While posing for me in front of ‘I Am the Door’ Ferlinghetti pulled his coat up to reveal the ‘door.’ ”
   In 1951 Ferlinghetti married Selden Kirby– Smith, with whom a romance had developed aboard ship en route to France and later in Spain. The couple soon moved to San Francisco, eventually establishing residence in North Beach. The couple had two children: Julie, born in 1962; and Lorenzo, born in 1963. The marriage ended in divorce in 1976.
   In San Francisco in the 1950s Ferlinghetti successfully entered the literary community. He taught briefly at the University of San Francisco, wrote reviews of poetry readings for the San Francisco Chronicle, and entered the poetry circles of kenneth rexroth and Robert Duncan. In 1952 Ferlinghetti met Peter Martin, editor of City Lights, a literary magazine, and in June 1953 they became co-owners of City Lights Bookstore. By 1955 Martin sold his interest in the store to Ferlinghetti, who went forward as the lone owner of the bookstore and director of publications for City Lights Books. Ferlinghetti launched the Pocket Poets Series in 1955 with Pictures of the Gone World. The second book in the series was Rexroth’s 30 Spanish Poems of Love and Exile (1955), and the third was Kenneth Patchen’s Poems of Humor and Protest (1955). On October 7, 1955, Ferlinghetti attended the legendary reading at the Six Gallery in San Francisco, where Rexroth was moderator and where Ginsberg for the first time read a portion of “howl” in public. Ferlinghetti, imitating Ralph Waldo Emerson’s response to Walt Whitman, sent a telegram to Ginsberg: “I greet you at the beginning of a great career. When do I get the manuscript?” Howl and otHer poems (1956) became the fourth book in the Pocket Poets Series. The book was printed in England, and the United States Customs seized copies. The prosecutor declined to pursue the case and released the seized copies, but San Francisco authorities entered the case, arresting Ferlinghetti and his associate, Shig Murao, for selling obscene material. The American Civil Liberties Union posted bail and provided legal defense, and after a well-publicized trial, on October 3, 1957, Judge Clayton Horn declared that Howl and Other Poems was not obscene. Made notorious through the controversy, the book sold well and became a classic of Beat literature, with Ferlinghetti emerging as a champion of free expression. With this new fame, Ferlinghetti hoped for a publication of his own, and James Laughlin, the head of New Directions, took an interest, publishing some selections by Ferlinghetti in the magazine New Directions and encouraging Ferlinghetti to develop a full-size manuscript. In 1958 Laughlin published Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind, which included a new sequence of poems, a group of poems intended for performance with jazz accompaniment; a selection of poems from Pictures of the Gone World. A Coney Island of the Mind sold well and enjoyed enduring popularity. By 1960 Ferlinghetti became an important editor in the world of small literary magazines. With bob kaufman, John Kelley, William J. Margolis, and Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti edited Beatitude, a mimeographed publication of great freedom and expression. With david meltzer and michael mcclure,
   Ferlinghetti edited Journal for the Protection of All Beings, a magazine emphasizing political and social views. Under Ferlinghetti’s direction, City Lights, the magazine originated by Peter Martin, became City Lights Journal. Ferlinghetti also continued his work as editor and publisher for City Lights Books, producing new volumes in the Pocket Poets Series and publishing numerous other books as well, including kaddisH and otHer poems (1960) by Ginsberg and Book of dreams (1961) by Kerouac. Although Ferlinghetti enjoyed many successes as a publisher, he also chose not to publish on tHe road by Kerouac and naked luncH by William S. Burroughs, thereby missing the opportunity to publish the three signal works of the Beat Generation: Howl and Other Poems, On the Road, and Naked Lunch.
   To provide a retreat for private reflection, in 1960 Ferlinghetti purchased some land in Bixby Canyon near Big Sur in California. A small and simple cabin on this land became the setting for Kerouac’s novel BiG sur (1963) after Ferlinghetti arranged for Kerouac to spend time enjoying privacy. In the novel, the character Lorenz Monsanto is based on Ferlinghetti.
   Ferlinghetti also resumed his world travels, venturing to various countries where communism was emerging: in Latin America, he visited Cuba, Chile, and Nicaragua; in Europe he traveled to Germany, France, Spain, and Russia; he even took an agonizingly long train ride across Siberia. In the United States during the 1970s, Ferlinghetti intensified his activism, allying himself with the United Farm Workers, antinuclear protests, and campaigns against whaling.
   Although Ferlinghetti never lost sight of his identity as a painter, his successes as an author, publisher, and activist overshadowed his painting for many years. Nevertheless, Ferlinghetti’s writings frequently included references to great works of visual art, including works by Goya, Monet, Pissaro, and Klimt. In 1994, at “The Beats: Legacy and Celebration,” a conference held at New York University, Ferlinghetti’s paintings were included in a special exhibition. Ferlinghetti also had showings at the George Krevsky Gallery in San Francisco and at various other galleries.
   At about the time of “The Beats: Legacy and Celebration,” Ferlinghetti’s These Are My Rivers: New and Selected Poems (1994) was published by New Directions. The collection revealed Ferlinghetti’s standard practice of blending familiar works from his career with a selection of new material. How to Paint Sunlight (2001) reveals the painter’s perspective in Ferlinghetti’s work as he refers various times to patterns of light in the city. In Life Studies, Life Stories (2003), one can see Ferlinghetti’s drawings. In Americus, Book I (2004), Ferlinghetti turns his attention again to the American political and social scene with characteristic humor and satire. Honors have accumulated for Ferlinghetti, especially in San Francisco, where in 1998 he became the city’s first poet laureate. In 1994 an alley in San Francisco was named Via Ferlinghetti. In 2003 Ferlinghetti was given the Robert Frost Memorial Medal, was the recipient the Authors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, and was made a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
   William Lawlor

Encyclopedia of Beat Literature. . 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Ferlinghetti, Lawrence — ▪ American poet in full  Lawrence Monsanto Ferlinghetti  born March 24, 1919, Yonkers, N.Y., U.S.       American poet, one of the founders of the Beat movement in San Francisco in the mid 1950s. His City Lights bookshop was an early gathering… …   Universalium

  • Ferlinghetti, Lawrence — ► (n. 1919) Escritor estadounidense. En su poesía predomina la tendencia a la agitación social. Obras: Imágenes de un mundo desaparecido y Coney Island en la mente, entre otras …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Ferlinghetti, Lawrence —  (1920–) American poet and writer …   Bryson’s dictionary for writers and editors

  • Ferlinghetti, Lawrence —    см. Ферлингетти, Лоренс …   Писатели США. Краткие творческие биографии

  • Ferlinghetti, Lawrence (Monsanto) — orig. Lawrence Ferling born March 24, 1919, Yonkers, N.Y., U.S. U.S. poet. Ferlinghetti attended Columbia University and the Sorbonne. A founder of the Beat movement in San Francisco in the mid 1950s, he established the City Lights bookstore, an… …   Universalium

  • Ferlinghetti, Lawrence (Monsanto) — orig. Lawrence Ferling (n. 24 mar. 1919, Yonkers, N.Y., EE.UU.). Poeta estadounidense. Se educó en la Universidad de Columbia y en la Sorbona. Miembro fundador del movimiento Beat a mediados de la década de 1950 en San Francisco, abrió allí la… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Ferlinghetti — Ferlinghetti, Lawrence …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Lawrence Ferlinghetti — (né le 24 mars 1919) est un poète américain, plus connu sous les auspices du co propriétaire de la librairie City Lights Books, et d une maison d édition du même nom qui a fait paraître les travaux littéraires des poètes de la Beat… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Ferlinghetti — Lawrence Ferlinghetti (* 24. März 1919 in Yonkers, New York) ist ein US amerikanischer Schriftsteller, Dichter der Beat Generation und versteht sich als Anarchist. Lawrence Ferlinghetti (2007) Ferlinghetti wuchs in Frankreich auf. Er studierte an …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • FERLINGHETTI (L.) — FERLINGHETTI LAWRENCE (1919 ) Le plus engagé politiquement des poètes américains, Lawrence Ferlinghetti n’est sûr ni du lieu ni de la date de sa naissance. Selon lui, son père mourut peu avant qu’il ne vînt au monde, sa mère entra dans un hôpital …   Encyclopédie Universelle

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