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Lawrence Ferlinghetti—Poet, Publisher, and Activist—Dies in His Beloved San Francisco at Age 101

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/02/23/lawrence-ferlinghetti-poet-publisher-and-activist-dies-his-beloved-san-francisco-age

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And the Beat goes on. To Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who made my life richer, although I just learned his name. History is full of people like him. Some are in the books, some are not. May he rest in poetry.

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While it may be a result of the entertainment industry or the influence of pop culture, every time I hear Ferlinghetti’s name i think of an old book store filled with misanthropes wearing berets and sunglasses inside, all the while drinking coffee, chain smoking, and bemoaning a world that will never understand them.
My wife’s employer, a large healthcare system, many years ago had a charity ball where the theme was 1950’s and 60’s pop culture. My pretty brunette better half of course went as Audrey Hepburn’s Holly go Lightly, and of course I went as my version of the beatnik Ferlinghetti (I of course had to explain who I was to many people, cretins:)
Godspeed Mr Ferlinghetti.

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Coming of age during the 60s in what would later become Silicon Valley, I considered Ferlinghetti San Francisco’s most solid citizen. I rode the Espee train or Greyhound or hitchhiked to The City every chance I got, hoofed it on up to City Lights Bookstore and enjoyed great coffee at one of the neighboring superb North Beach roasters.

Is Gary Snyder the only beat poet still standing ?

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“Let us feed the pigeons
at the City Hall
urging them to do their duty
in the Mayor’s office.
Hurry up please it’s time.
The end is coming.
Flash floods
Disasters in the sun
Dogs unleashed
Sister in the street
her brassiere backwards.
Let us arise and go now
into the interior dark night
of the soul’s still bowery
and find ourselves anew
where subways stall and wait
under the River.”
– Junkman’s Obligato

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Epitaph selfie:

"The world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don’t mind happiness
not always being
so very much fun
if you don’t mind a touch of hell
now and then
just when everything is fine
because even in heaven
they don’t sing
all the time

The world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don’t mind some people dying
all the time
or maybe only starving
some of the time
which isn’t half bad
if it isn’t you

Oh the world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don’t much mind
a few dead minds
in the higher places
or a bomb or two
now and then
in your upturned faces
or such other improprieties
as our Name Brand society
is prey to
with its men of distinction
and its men of extinction
and its priests
and other patrolmen

and its various segregations
and congressional investigations
and other constipations
that our fool flesh
is heir to
Yes the world is the best place of all
for a lot of such things as
making the fun scene and making the love scene
and making the sad scene and singing low songs and having inspirations and walking around
looking at everything
and smelling flowers
and goosing statues
and even thinking and kissing people and
making babies and wearing pants
and waving hats and
dancing
and going swimming in rivers
on picnics
in the middle of the summer
and just generally
‘living it up’
Yes
but then right in the middle of it
comes the smiling
mortician."

  • Lawrence Ferlinghetti, City Lights Pocket Poets Anthology
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Yes; Mr. Snyder is. Lawrence Ferlinghetti was one of the reasons I moved west to live in the SF Bay area. He seemed to embody all of the free-thinking, artistic energy that attracted me. Despite all the Sillycone Valley detrimental changes, it’s still a good place to be. It will be a sadder place knowing he’s not here giving them the evil eye, though.

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A salute to Ferlinghetti, City Lights Books, and poems that took the roof off of my head fifty years ago in ways that made sense some time after.

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Still a good place indeed. Best I’ve ever lived; in this country, at least.

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I love your comment. Thank you.

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He was one of my favorites, and an era in himself.

I have in my hand a book named “Poems of Humor and Protest, by Kenneth Patchen.” It’s a soft cover published by “The Pocket Poets Series: Number Three: City Lights Books.” It’s 53 years old now.

I hope that a statue of him is raised in San Francisco

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“A Coney Island State of Mind.” Classic. Fell in love with the man right there. Godspeed, poet.

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Correction to article: “Be subversive, constantly questioning reality and the status quo. Strive to change the world in such a way that there’s no further need to be a dissident.

My favorite Ferlinghetti poem has always been “Hilarious God”, in These Are My Rivers. Doesn’t seem like there’s much to it but the last stanza makes it all worth it.

I second @ThomasMarx 's stillness that there should be a statue.

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