Lawrence Ferlinghetti

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.

Ferlinghetti's Greatest Poems

At last, just in time for his 99th birthday, a powerful overview of one of America’s most beloved poets: New Directions is proud to present a swift, terrific chronological selection of Ferlinghetti’s poems, spanning more than six decades of work and presenting one of modern poetry’s greatest achievements.
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Blasts Cries Laughter

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 —…
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Time of Useful Consciousness: Limited Edition

Nonfiction by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

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.…
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Time of Useful Consciousness

Nonfiction by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

**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_.…
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Poetry As Insurgent Art

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.…
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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.…
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How To Paint Sunlight

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.…
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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.…
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A Coney Island of The Mind (Special Edition)

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.…
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A Far Rockaway Of The Heart

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.…
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These Are My Rivers

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.…
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Wild Dreams Of A New Beginning

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 ….…
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European Poems And Transitions

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.…
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Over All The Obscene Boundaries

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.…
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Endless Life: Selected Poems

Lawrence Ferlinghetti is surely (as a reviewer in Booklist phrased it) “one of our ageless radicals and true bards.” He has consistently spoken in poetic terms accessible to every type of reader about our life and time and its issues, not only the political ones but those of the interior life. Behind the immediacy of what Library Journal called his “Dynamic, verbose, alarming, charming, and unsettling” poetry and its irresistible spontaneity lie serious thought and erudition.…
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Landscapes Of Living And Dying

In Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s first “Populist Manifesto,” he called for “a new wide-open poetry/with a new commonsensual public surface’’ which still retains “subjective and/or subversive depth.” In Landscapes of Living & Dying, the poet has himself answered that call. As a result, most of these poems have already appeared on the Op/Ed pages or in the news sections of major metropolitan dailies, and this fact alone makes the book unique among new poetry collections.…
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Who Are We Now?

“Do you enjoy your own mind? Maxims and legends of total reality, echoing and re-echoing there?” asks Lawrence Ferlinghetti in discussing this, his seventh book of verse. “If we could only decipher it… Visual beatitudes, landscapes of living and dying flashed upon the dark screen…” The poems in Who Are We Now?, truly “landscapes of living,” are naturally attempts to decipher that reality, ranging eclectically from the populist to the esoteric, from Bob Dylan to Gustav Klimt to the already famous “Populist Manifesto,” which the late jazz critic Ralph Gleason characterized as an “important document of the Seventies.…
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Open Eye, Open Heart

It is poems such as these, among those of other poets roughly associated with the San Francisco school, which Pablo Neruda had in mind when he spoke with Ferlinghetti in Cuba not so long ago of “your wide-open American poetry.” There is a wide-angle vision and a very great range in the different kinds and genres of poems––personal and lyric, satiric and meditative, public and political, spoken and sung––written over the past decade during the poet’s travels in the world and inside himself––a world seen in a semi-dark glass through which light nevertheless keeps breaking.…
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Back Roads To Far Places

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.
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The Mexican Night

Nonfiction by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

The Mexican Night is the first of several travel journals, to be published over the next few years, which Ferlinghetti originally envisioned under the title of “Writing Across the Landscape.” It is considerably more than a travel book, including as it does much pure prose-poetry, new poems, and drawings taken from the author’s notebooks. The Mexican Night is not only personal but political, while at times it would seem to be a kind of “travel novel”––with but one character––the wandering figure (somehow surrounded with solitude) of the poet himself.…
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The Secret Meaning Of Things

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.…
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Fiction by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Translated by Vincent McHugh

With a contribution by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

“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.…
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A Coney Island of the Mind

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.…
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Starting From San Francisco

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.…
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Shards: Fragments of Verses

Poetry by Lorenzo Chiera

Translated from the Italian by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

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.…
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He has a gift for helping you hear what needs to be said… His high points are the poems that you wish you could listen to in a car, on a long coastal highway with the windows rolled down.

—Jeff Gordinier, New York Times

Tenderly lyrical, outrageously irreverent, yet always accessible. ​

Fort Worth Star Telegram

Lawrence gets you laughing then hits you with the truth.

—Francis Ford Coppola

A brave man and a brave poet.

—Bob Dylan

Time of Useful Consciousness is a fresh missive from an elderly Beat who has always refused to sit down.


Lawrence Ferlinghetti is a national treasure and the kind of poet laureate we really deserve.


Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s engrossing new work, Time of Useful Consciousness, is an ode to modern American myth. At ninety-two, Ferlinghetti has rhythm, he has vision, and he captures the magic energy of Jack Kerouac.

The Coffin Factory

Ferlinghetti refers to Ginsberg as ‘the Whitman of our age,’ but Time of Useful Consciousness has that epic, galvanizing, country-hopping voice of a latter-day Good Gray as Ferlinghetti recreates the pioneer spirit of racing west for gold, for freedom, for art, for land, for the hell of it, for life — as well as all the messy stops along the way.

—Christopher Bollen, Interview Magzine

In the spirit of Whitman, [Ferlinghetti] unwinds a country in all its speed and vibrancy.

San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco’s first poet laureate and its most lyrical town crier.

San Francisco Chronicle

Tenderly lyrical, outrageously irreverent, yet always accessible.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Lawrence is my favorite poet, to warn us of the coming of Big Brother. Lawrence gets you laughing, then hits you with the truth. From D-Day to 911 Lawrence is the poet who asks us why the human race is trying to kill itself.

—Francis Ford Coppola

Ferlinghetti’s poems burn through modern America’s absurdities and unrepentant historical revision in a glorious rant against mediocrity, greed, capitalism and boring poetry.

Publishers Weekly

Lawrence Ferlinghetti is our determined conscience, our wit and eloquence – our steadfast friend and witness – and our communal wisdom’s articulate, patiently insistent old-time voice. Would that all might stand up as he and be counted!

—Robert Creeley
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