Lawrence Ferlinghetti

A prominent voice of the wide-open poetry movement that began in the 1950s, Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s literary production includes poetry, translation, fiction, theater, art criticism, film narration, and essays. Often concerned with politics and social issues, Ferlinghetti’s poetry countered the literary elite’s definition of art and the artist’s role in the world. Imbued with the American idiom, his poetry is grounded in both American anarchist and European surrealist traditions. Ferlinghetti was born in Yonkers in 1919. In 1953 he co-founded, with Peter D. Martin, City Lights, one of the first all-paperbound bookstores in the country, and by 1955 had launched the City Lights publishing house, whose publication of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl in 1956 led to the publisher’s arrest on obscenity charges. In a widely publicized first amendment case, the publishers were vindicated, drawing international attention to San Francisco Renaissance and Beat movement writers. Ferlinghetti is the author of A Coney Island of the Mind, one of the most popular poetry books in the U.S., with close to 1,000,000 copies in print. His most recent book is A Far Rockaway of the Heart. In August 1998, he was named San Francisco’s first Poet Laureate.