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Lawrence gets you laughing then hits you with the truth.

—Francis Ford Coppola

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

American writer, publisher, activist, visual artist, and founder of City Lights Books

Lawrence Ferlinghetti was born in Yonkers, New York, in 1919. He received an AB degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina, and an MA from Columbia University, where he wrote a thesis on the influence of John Ruskin’s writing on J.M.W. Turner. After Navy service in World War II, he worked in the mail room at Time Magazine for a while, then lived in Paris (1947–1951), where he received a Doctorat de l’Universite from the Sorbonne in 1949. It was in France that Ferlinghetti began painting. On his return to the United States he settled in San Francisco, where he and Peter D. Martin founded the first all paperbound bookstore in the country, City Lights Books. Under its imprint, Ferlinghetti began the Pocket Poets Series which included work by William Carlos Williams, Allen Ginsberg, Kenneth Patchen, Kenneth Rexroth, and Antonin Artaud. Ferlinghetti’s second books of poems, A Coney Island of the Mind (New Directions, 1958) is one of the best selling poetry books of our time. A Far Rockaway of the Heart (ND, 1997) won a silver medal, in the category of Poetry, in the California Book Awards, sponsored by The Commonwealth Club of California. On August 11, 1998, Ferlinghetti was named San Francisco’s first poet laureate. He received The Before Columbus Foundation "Lifetime Achievement Award" for the twentieth annual American Book Awards for 1999. In 2001 he was one of two American poets (the other being John Ashbery) chosen to participate in the second celebration of UNESCO’s World Poetry Day in Delphi, Greece, where he along with his international confreres poetically addressed the Oracle. He has also been writing a weeky column, “Poetry as News,” for the San Francisco Chronicle Book Review. In December 2006, Ferlinghetti was named a Commandeur in the French Order of Arts and Letters. Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s reputation within the literary world grows out of his commitment to literature and to the literary artists who have pushed the edges of the literary envelope shaping the last half of this century. He is a man of many hats, and he brings to each of his roles an approach that challenges tradition. It is his uncharacteristic personality that allows him to balance comfortably activities as diverse as those of poet, novelist, playwright, publisher, critic, social activist, and visual artist.


cover image for Blasts Cries Laughter

Blasts Cries Laughter

Poetry

Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s Blasts contains blasts, blessings, and curses in the vortex of today, taking its cues from the original little magazine, Blast (published by Wyndham Lewis with Ezra Pound in 1914–15), which helped create the modernist movement in literature and the visual arts. Ferlinghetti speaks for the poor, the forgotten, the beaten, and the bombed.

And speak to us in the poet’s voice 
the voice of the people mixed
with a wild soft laughter —



cover image for Time of Useful Consciousness: Limited Edition

Time of Useful Consciousness: Limited Edition

New Directions is proud to announce a galvanizing new book by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. At ninety-three, Ferlinghetti shows more power than most any other poet at work today. He describes his new book, Time of Useful Consciousness — his first since Poetry as Insurgent Art — as "a fragmented recording of the American stream-of-consciousness, always westward streaming; a people’s poetic history in the tradition of William Carlos Williams’s Paterson, Charles Olson’s Maximus, Allen Ginsberg’s Fall of America, and Ed Sanders’s America: A History in Verse. ’Time of Useful Consciousness’ is an aeronautical term denoting the time between when one loses oxygen and when one passes out, the brief time in which some life-saving action is possible."



cover image for Time of Useful Consciousness

Time of Useful Consciousness

Poetry

**A limited edition Time of Useful Consciousness is also available.
Details are here. **

New Directions is proud to announce a galvanizing new book by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. At ninety-three, Ferlinghetti shows more power than most any other poet at work today. He describes his new book, Time of Useful Consciousness — his first since Poetry as Insurgent Art — as "a fragmented recording of the American stream-of-consciousness, always westward streaming; a people’s poetic history in the tradition of William Carlos Williams’s Paterson, Charles Olson’s Maximus, Allen Ginsberg’s Fall of America, and Ed Sanders’s America: A History in Verse. ’Time of Useful Consciousness’ is an aeronautical term denoting the time between when one loses oxygen and when one passes out, the brief time in which some life-saving action is possible."   



cover image for Poetry As Insurgent Art

Poetry As Insurgent Art

Poetry

Since publishing A Coney Island of the Mind (1958), Lawrence Ferlinghetti has been the poetic conscience of America. Now in Poetry as Insurgent Art, he offers a primer, in prose, of what poetry is, could be, and should be. If you read poetry, find out what is missing from the usual fare you are served; if you are a poet, read at your own risk––you will never again look at your role in the same way.



cover image for Americus

Americus

Poetry

Describing Americus as "part documentary, part public pillow-talk, part personal epic—a descant, a canto unsung, a banal history, a true fiction, lyric and political," Ferlinghetti combines "universal texts, snatches of song, words or phrases, murmuring of love or hate, from Lotte Lenya to the latest soul singer, sayings and shibboleths from Yogi Berra to the National Anthem, the Gettysburg Address or the Ginsberg Address, that haunt our nocturnal imagination." This book is a wake-up call that breaks new ground in the grand tradition of Whitman, W.C. Williams, Charles Olson, and Ezra Pound, as Ferlinghetti cruises our literary and political landscapes, past and present, to create an autobiography of American consciousness.



cover image for How To Paint Sunlight

How To Paint Sunlight

Poetry

How to Paint Sunlight, now being made available in paperbook format, is graced with a short introduction by the poet in which he says, "All I ever wanted to do was paint light on the walls of life." For more than fifty years Ferlinghetti has been doing just that––illuminating both the everyday and the unusual, all the while keeping true to his original dictum of speaking in a way accessible to everyone. He has been, and remains, "one of our ageless radicals and true bards" (Booklist), and his voice is well known in many places around the world. He was one of the two American poets (the other being John Ashbery) chosen to participate in the second celebration of UNESCO’s World of Poetry Day in Delphi, Greece, where he along with his international confreres each poetically addressed the Oracle. His poem for the occasion is now included in this book.



cover image for Routines

Routines

Theater

In this collection of thirteen very short plays, Ferlinghetti extends the experiments he began in Unfair Arguments with Existence (1963) into an area barely explored by any dramatist to date––a no man’s land between old-style drama and the spontaneous improvisation of the "happening.’ In between these two extremes, he has created blueprints for dramatic action––outlines from which director and actors may create and interpret freely. There has been much talk lately (in quarterlies such as Studies on the Left) about "revolutionary theatre," and these "Routines" are a certain step in that direction. In Unfair Arguments with Existence, Ferlinghetti hoped that "feeling around on the frontiers of theatre, we may yet possibly discover some ’seeking action’ in life itself." In Routines he conceives of theatre as a search for revolutionary solutions, with the audience itself made of good and bad actors "acting out aspirations to some ideal existence."


Available: April 01 2001


cover image for A Coney Island of The Mind (Special Edition)

A Coney Island of The Mind (Special Edition)

Poetry

Ferlinghetti is a national treasure, and his voice has become part of our collective conscience. Some of his most famous poems from this collection such as "I Am Waiting" and "Junkman’s Obbligato" were created for jazz accompaniment. Written in the conservative post-war 1950s, his poems still resonate, as they will continue to resonate, with a joyful anti-establishment fervor that beats a rhythmic portrait of humanity. Ferlinghetti sings of a world in which "the heart flops over / gasping ’Love’," "cadillacs fell thru the trees like rain," and where "we are the same people / only further from home / on freeways fifty lanes wide." This special 50th Anniversary Edition comes with a newly recorded CD of the author reading the 29 poems of the title section of A Coney Island of the Mind as well as selections from Pictures of the Gone World


Available: January 01 2001


cover image for A Far Rockaway Of The Heart

A Far Rockaway Of The Heart

Poetry

A Far Rockaway of the Heart is Ferlinghetti’s sequel to Coney Island of the Mind, written forty years afterwards in what the author has called "a poetry seizure" that lasted more than a year. A sequence of one hundred and one poems with recurrent themes, it includes various sections on love, art, music, history, and literature, as well as confrontations with major figures in the avant-garde before the arrival of the Beat generation. This paperbound edition now includes eighteen new poems from Ferlinghetti’s Pictures of the Gone World which he publishes under his City Lights imprint. A self-styled "stand-up tragedian," Ferlinghetti has been called "the foremost chronicler of our times." If A Coney Island of the Mind was a generation’s vibrant eye-opener, A Far Rockaway of the Heart is a wake-up call for a new age.


Available: May 01 1998


cover image for These Are My Rivers

These Are My Rivers

Poetry

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, "one of our ageless radicals and true bards" (Booklist), has gathered here four decades of poetry in his inimitable everyman’s voice, including more than fifty pages of new work. The tone has deepened over the years, and he may now be seen as a true maestro in his field. Behind the irresistible air of immediacy and spontaneity lies much erudition and an antic imagination intent on subverting "the dominant paradigm." From his earliest books, including his landmark Coney Island of the Mind, Ferlinghetti has written poetry "in ways that those who see poetry as the province of the few and educated had never imagined. That strength has turned out to be lasting" (Joel Oppenheimer, N. Y. Times Books Review).


Available: October 01 1994


cover image for European Poems And Transitions

European Poems And Transitions

Poetry

These poems on European themes by the author of Her (his Paris novel) and the enduring A Coney Island of the Mind were mostly written during the last seven years and, in the poet’s words, are "transformations and transitions looking westward to America and beyond." Flowing from France to Italy to the Netherlands, on to Germany, back to France, and finally toward America, they follow Ferlinghetti’s own recent journeying. The poems progress geographically and chronologically with a cohesive development of ideas and themes. In part he plays off T. S. Eliot’s "summarizing the past by theft and allusion" but captures the present as well in fleeting incidents of daily experience, and, in his powerful concluding poem "History of the World: A TV Docu-drama," envisions a possible nuclear future. It is a view of our time and of where we are in it, seen by an eagle eye, told in Ferlinghetti’s inimitable everyman’s voice.


Available: December 01 1988


cover image for Wild Dreams Of A New Beginning

Wild Dreams Of A New Beginning

Poetry

Wild Dreams of a New Beginning brings together two acclaimed poetry volumes by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, one of our "ageless radicals and true bards" (Booklist). Who Are We Now? (1976), the first half of Wild Dreams, takes a long poetic look at the cultural fallout of a more radical time. This probing of the changes in the American psyche through the 1970s is carried forward in the second part, Landscapes of Living & Dying (1979)––a work originally hailed by Library Journal as "Ferlinghetti’s strongest work since his 1957 A Coney Island of the Mind .... [He] pursues his disheveled muse with the innocent passion of a young beatnik, hiding his authentic erudition behind a comfortable guise of spontaneous composition."


Available: December 01 1988


cover image for Over All The Obscene Boundaries

Over All The Obscene Boundaries

Poetry

These poems on European themes by the author of Her (his Paris novel) and the enduring A Coney Island of the Mind were mostly written during the last seven years and, in the poet’s words, are "transformations and transitions looking westward to America and beyond." Flowing from France to Italy to the Netherlands, on to Germany, back to France, and finally toward America, they follow Ferlinghetti’s own recent journeying. The poems progress geographically and chronologically with a cohesive development of ideas and themes. In part he plays off T. S. Eliot’s "summarizing the past by theft and allusion" but captures the present as well in fleeting incidents of daily experience, and, in his powerful concluding poem "History of the World: A TV Docu-drama," envisions a possible nuclear future. It is a view of our time and of where we are in it, seen by an eagle eye, told in Ferlinghetti’s inimitable everyman’s voice.


Available: September 01 1984


cover image for Back Roads To Far Places

Back Roads To Far Places

Poetry

This single long poem of intimately linked verses is not a translation, although the echoes of Japanese poetry and Tibetan Buddhist texts are many. Starting out after Basho but meeting Milarepa and Dante among others en route, the poet finds his own way, toward a kind of American mantra.


Available: January 01 1971


cover image for The Secret Meaning Of Things

The Secret Meaning Of Things

Poetry

The Secret Meaning of Things is Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s fourth book of poems, and it has all the elements of his earlier poetry: lyrical intensity, wit, social concern, satirical bite, and above all a classical claritas. But it goes much further: there is a deepening of vision and a darker understanding of "our clay condition." The six long poems in The Secret Meaning of Things show a progressive continuity and clarity of perception that apprehends both the hard reality and luminous irreality in everyday phenomena. In "Assassination Raga"––on the death of Robert Kennedy––the glass through which the poet sees darkly is the television screen; the poem was first read on the night of RFK’s funeral at a mass memorial in San Francisco. "Bickford’s Buddha" is a meditation on "Observation Fever" in Harvard Square, while "All Too Clearly" finds a "touch of old surrealism/at a stoplight in La Jolla." "Through the Looking Glass" begins with an actual flight aboard a commercial airliner and moves through a psychedelic vision to a final flash of the Dance of Shiva, which in turn opens out into the worldview of "After the Cries of Birds." "Moscow in the Wilderness, Segovia in the Snow" comes out of Ferlinghetti’s travels to Moscow and across the steppes in the winter of 1967.



cover image for Her

Her

Fiction

"A surreal semi-autobiographical blackbook record of a semi-mad period of my life, in that mindless, timeless state most romantics pass through, confusing flesh madonnas with spiritual ones." This is how the author describes this extraordinary expatriate novel. "To all those who have for several years sought to discredit the new American literature, Lawrence Ferlinghetti has just dealt a most powerful blow," wrote French critic Pierre Lepape in 1961 when Her was published in France as La Quatrième Personne du Singulier. Calling it "a masterpiece of the young American novel," Lepape declared it was "the confirmation of a great American writer who, in the hall of American literary glories, takes the place left vacant by the death of Hemingway." Lepape went on to speak of the "incredible verbal virtuosity" by which the reader is led through this "laby-rêve," and it is this image of the "labyrinth-dream" which relates Her to the anti-novels of the young French school of Robbe-Grillet and Butor.



cover image for A Coney Island of the Mind

A Coney Island of the Mind

Poetry

The title of this book is taken from Henry Miller’s Into the Night Life and expresses the way Lawrence Ferlinghetti felt about these poems when he wrote them during a short period in the 1950s—as if they were, taken together, a kind of Coney Island of the mind, a kind of circus of the soul. A Coney Island of the Mind is not about the geographical Coney Island. The author intended it as a sustained metaphor or allegory of modern life. 



cover image for Starting From San Francisco

Starting From San Francisco

Poetry

Starting From San Francisco, first published in 1961, was the third collection of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poetry. The long poems of Starting From San Francisco present a new, quieter, more profound aspect of the poet. His original lyricism and caustic humor have been confronted, as it were, with the real presence of evil and death. "Starting from Paumanok... I strike up for a New World" wrote Walt Whitman in 1860. Starting from San Francisco, a hundred years later, Ferlinghetti roved back across the country (this "cradle we rocked out of") then turned south of the border to visionary conclusions in that lost horizon symbolized by Machu Picchu, the Inca city the Spaniards never found. These poems of voyage are autobiographical in that they grew out of Ferlinghetti’s travels in South America and Europe, but there are also poems on other themes, including several long "broadsides," which the author identifies as "satirical tirades––poetry admittedly corrupted by the political, itself irradiated by the Thing it attacks." Commenting on this paperbook edition, to which two important poems, "Berlin" and "The Situation in The West" have been added, Ferlinghetti wrote: "These poems represent to me a kind of halfway house in the ascent of a mountain I hardly knew existed until I stopped and looked back at the flatlands below. Like a Zen fool lost in the woods who laughs and lies face down on the earth to find his way."



cover image for Shards: Fragments of Verses

Shards: Fragments of Verses

Poetry

Sensual and glimmering, Lorenzo Chiera's elliptical fragments evoke nights of bawdy excess in Trastevere ("City made of Roman ruins . . . / what a whorehouse!"), translated here by one of the most renowned poets of our time.

In his preface, Lawrence Ferlinghetti describes the experience of reading Chiera for the first time: "We soon realize we are in the presence of a savage erotic consciousness, as if the lust-driven senses were suddenly awakened out of a hoary sleep of a thousand years, a youth shaken awake by a rude medieval hand, senses still reeling, drunk in the hold of some slave ship, not knowing night from day nor sight from sound, the eye and the ear and the nose confounding each other, not yet knowing which function each was to take up in the quivering dawn."


Available: September 08 2015


cover image for Her

Her

Fiction

"A surreal semi-autobiographical blackbook record of a semi-mad period of my life, in that mindless, timeless state most romantics pass through, confusing flesh madonnas with spiritual ones." This is how the author describes this extraordinary expatriate novel. "To all those who have for several years sought to discredit the new American literature, Lawrence Ferlinghetti has just dealt a most powerful blow," wrote French critic Pierre Lepape in 1961 when Her was published in France as La Quatrième Personne du Singulier. Calling it "a masterpiece of the young American novel," Lepape declared it was "the confirmation of a great American writer who, in the hall of American literary glories, takes the place left vacant by the death of Hemingway." Lepape went on to speak of the "incredible verbal virtuosity" by which the reader is led through this "laby-rêve," and it is this image of the "labyrinth-dream" which relates Her to the anti-novels of the young French school of Robbe-Grillet and Butor.