Lawrence Ferlinghetti

(b. 1919)





  I am waiting for my case to come up

                  and I am waiting

               for a rebirth of wonder

            and I am waiting for someone

             to really discover America

                     and wail

                  and I am waiting

                  for the discovery

         of a new symbolic western frontier

                  and I am waiting

               for the American Eagle

              to really spread its wings

            and straighten up and fly right

                  and I am waiting

               for the Age of Anxiety

                   to drop dead

                  and I am waiting

              for the war to be fought

           which will make the world safe

                    for anarchy

                  and I am waiting

             for the final withering away

                 of all governments

            and I am perpetually awaiting

                a rebirth of wonder


         I am waiting for the Second Coming

                  and I am waiting

                for a religious revival

          to sweep thru the state of Arizona

                  and I am waiting

         for the Grapes of Wrath to be stored

                  and I am waiting

                 for them to prove

             that God is really American

             and I am seriously waiting

         for Billy Graham and Elvis Presley

             to exchange roles seriously

                 and I am waiting

              to see God on television

              piped onto church altars

                if only they can find

                  the right channel

                   to tune in on

                 and I am waiting

        for the Last Supper to be served again

            with a strange new appetizer

            and I am perpetually awaiting

                a rebirth of wonder



       I am waiting for my number to be called

                  and I am waiting

                 for the living end

                  and I am waiting

               for dad to come home

                  his pockets full

             of irradiated silver dollars

                  and I am waiting

             for the atomic tests to end

              and I am waiting happily

            for things to get much worse

                before they improve

                  and I am waiting

         for the Salvation Army to take over

                  and I am waiting

                for the human crowd

           to wander off a cliff somewhere

            clutching its atomic umbrella

                  and I am waiting

                   for Ike to act

                  and I am waiting

             for the meek to be blessed

                and inherit the earth

                   without taxes

                  and I am waiting

               for forests and animals

            to reclaim the earth as theirs

                  and I am waiting

               for a way to be devised

              to destroy all nationalisms

               without killing anybody

                  and I am waiting

        for linnets and planets to fall like rain

       and I am waiting for lovers and weepers

              to lie down together again

             in a new rebirth of wonder


    I am waiting for the Great Divide to be crossed

             and I am anxiously waiting

     for the secret of eternal life to be discovered

          by an obscure general practitioner

       and save me forever from certain death

                  and I am waiting

                  for life to begin

                  and I am waiting

                for the storms of life,

                     to be over

                  and I am waiting

              to set sail for happiness

                  and I am waiting

           for a reconstructed Mayflower

                 to reach America

          with its picture story and tv rights

            sold in advance to the natives

                  and I am waiting

           for the lost music to sound again

                in the Lost Continent

             in a new rebirth of wonder


              I am waiting for the day

             that maketh all things clear

                  and I am waiting

                 for Ole Man River

              to just stop rolling along

               past the country club

                  and I am waiting

                for the deepest South

           to just stop Reconstructing itself

                  in its own image

                  and I am waiting

           for a sweet desegregated chariot

                   to swing low

          and carry me back to Ole Virginie

                  and I am waiting

             for Ole Virginie to discover

             just why Darkies are born

                  and I am waiting

                 for God to lookout

              from Lookout Mountain

       and see the Ode to the Confederate Dead

                   as a real farce

            and I am awaiting retribution

                for what America did

                  to Tom Sawyer

            and I am perpetually awaiting

                a rebirth of wonder


       I am waiting for Tom Swift to grow up

                  and I am waiting

               for the American Boy

             to take off Beauty's clothes

               and get on top of her

                  and I am waiting

              for Alice in Wonderland

                 to retransmit to me

            her total dream of innocence

                  and I am waiting

             for Childe Roland to come

              to the final darkest tower

                  and I am waiting

                   for Aphrodite

                 to grow live arms

          at a final disarmament conference

             in a new rebirth of wonder


                    I am waiting

               to get some intimations

                   of immortality

         by recollecting my early childhood

                  and I am waiting

        for the green mornings to come again

     youth's dumb green fields come back again

                  and I am waiting

        for some strains of unpremeditated art

              to shake my typewriter

              and I am waiting to write

              the great indelible poem

                  and I am waiting

           for the last long careless rapture

            and I am perpetually waiting

       for the fleeing lovers on the Grecian Urn

            to catch each other up at last

                   and embrace

                 and I am awaiting

               perpetually and forever

              a renaissance of wonder



                  ESTOU À ESPERA




Estou à espera que seja a vez do meu caso

e estou à espera

de um renascimento do maravilhoso

e estou à espera de alguém

que descubra realmente a América

e se lamente

e estou à espera

da descoberta

de uma nova fronteira simbólica no Oeste

e estou à espera

que a Águia Americana

estenda realmente suas asas

e se erga e voe pelo bom caminho

e estou à espera

que a Era da Ansiedade

caia morta

e estou à espera

duma guerra que virá

preparando o mundo

para a anarquia

e estou à espera

da decadência definitiva

de todos os governos

e estou perpetuamente à espera

de um renascimento do maravilhoso


Estou à espera da Segunda Vinda

e estou à espera

dum renascimento religioso

que se alastre pelo estado do Arizona

e estou à espera

que as Vinha da Ira sejam armazenadas

e estou à espera

que elas comprovem

que Deus realmente é Americano

e estou à espera s sem me rir

que Billy Graham e Elvis Presley

troquem seus papéis a sério

e estou à espera

de ver Deus na televisão

empoleirado nos altares das igrejas

caso eles consigam

apanhar o bom canal

para sintonizar Deus

e estou à espera

que a Última Ceia seja servida novamente

com um novo estranho aperitivo

e estou perpetuamente à espera

de um renascimento do maravilhoso


Estou à espera que chamem o meu número

e estou à espera

do final vivo

e estou à espera

que meu velho volte para casa

com bolsos cheios

de dólares de prata radioactiva

e estou à espera

que acabem as experiências atómicas

e estou à espera alegremente

que as coisas piorem

para depois melhorarem

e estou à espera

que o Exército da Salvação

tome conta da situação

e estou à espera

que a multidão humana

algures caia duma falésia abaixo

agarrada a seu guarda-chuva atómico


e estou à espera

que o Ike actue

e estou à espera

que os humildes sejam abençoados

e herdem a terra

sem pagar impostos

e estou à espera

que as florestas e os animais

reclamem a terra como sua

e estou à espera

que se descubra uma maneira

de acabar com todos os nacionalismos

sem matar ninguém

e estou à espera

que os piriquitos e os planetas caiam como chuva

e estou à espera que os amantes e as choradeiras

se deitem juntos novamente

num novo renascimento do maravilhoso


Estou à espera

que a Grande Barreira seja atravessada

e estou ansiosamente à espera

que o segredo da vida eterna

seja descoberto

por um obscuro clínico geral

e me salve para sempre da morte certa

e estou à espera

que a vida comece

e estou à espera

que os temporais da vida passem

e estou à espera

de soltar velas e zarpar para a felicidade

e estou à espera

que iam Mayflower reconstruído

chegue a América

com sua história aos quadradinhos

e direitos da TV vendidos desde já aos nativos

e estou à espera

que a melodia perdida ressoe novamente

no Continente perdido

num novo renascimento do maravilhoso


Estou à espera do dia

em que tudo se esclareça e

estou à espera

que o Old Man River

deixe de correr

pelos arredores do Country Club

e estou à espera

que o extremo sul

deixe de se reconstruir

à sua própria imagem

e estou à espera

que um carro des-segregado

me leve de volta a antiga Virgínia

e estou à espera

que a antiga Virgínia descubra

porque é que nascem os negros

e estou à espera que Deus espreite

da Montanha das Espreitadelas

e se aperceba que a Ode aos Confederados Mortos

na verdade é uma farsa

e estou à espera do castigo

pelo que a América fez ao Tom Sawyer

e estou perpetuamente à espera

de um renascimento do maravilhoso


Estou à espera que o Tom Swift cresça

e estou à espera

que o rapaz Americano

arranque as roupas à Beleza

e se ponha em cima dela

e estou à espera

que Alice no País das Maravilhas

me retransmita

seu integral sonho de inocência

e estou à espera

que o Cavaleiro Rolando atinja

a última e mais sombria torre

e estou à espera

que Afrodite

germine armas vivas

numa conferência final de desarmamento

num novo renascimento do maravilhoso


Estou à espera

do sentir algum prenúncio

da imortalidade

relembrando minha infância

e estou à espera

que voltem as manhãs de esperança

que voltem os campos verdes da juventude

e estou à espera

que acorde de arte espontânea

percorram minha máquina de escrever

e estou perpetuamente a espera

o grande e indelével poema

e estou à espera

pelo último longo êxtase desleixado

e estou perpetuamente a espera

que os fugidios amantes da Ânfora Grega

consigam finalmente agarrar-se

e enlaçar-se

e estou à espera

perpetuamente e para sempre

de um renascimento do maravilhoso












I am leading a quiet life

in Mike's Place every day watching the champs

of the Dante Billiard Parlor

and the French pinball addicts.

I am leading a quiet life

on lower East Broadway.

I am an American.

I was an American boy.

I read the American Boy Magazine

and became a boy scout in the suburbs.

I thought I was Tom Sawyer

catching crayfish in the Bronx River

and imagining the Mississippi.

I had a baseball mit

and an American Flyer bike.

I delivered the Woman's Home Companion

at five in the afternoon

or the Herald Trib

at five in the morning.

I still can hear the paper thump

on lost porches.

I had an unhappy childhood.

I saw Lindbergh land.

I looked homeward and saw no angel.

I got caught stealing pencils

from the Five and Ten Cent Store

the same month I made Eagle Scout.

I chopped trees for the CCC

and sat on them.

I landed in Normandy

in a rowboat that turned over.

I have seen the educated armies

on the beach at Dover.

I have seen Egyptian pilots in purple clouds

shopkeepers rolling up their blinds

at midday

potato salad and dandelions

at anarchist picnics.

I am reading 'Lorna Doone'

and a life of John Most

terror of the industrialist

a bomb on his desk at all times.

I have seen the garbagemen parade

in the Columbus Day Parade

behind the glib

farting trumpeters.

I have not been out to the Cloisters

in a long time nor to the Tuileries

but I still keep thinking of going.

I have seen the garbagemen parade

when it was snowing.

I have eaten hotdogs in ballparks.

I have heard the Gettysburg Address

and the Ginsberg Address.

I like it here

and I won't go back

where I came from.

I too have ridden boxcars boxcars boxcars.

I have travelled among unknown men.

I have been in Asia

with Noah in the Ark.

I was in India

when Rome was built.

I have been in the Manger

with an Ass.

I have seen the Eternal Distributor

from a White Hill

in South San Francisco and the

Laughing Woman at Loona Park

outside the Fun House

in a great rainstorm

still laughing.

I have heard the sound of revelry

by night.

I have wandered lonely as a crowd.

I am leading a quiet life

outside of Mike's Place every day

watching the world walk by

in its curious shoes.

I once started out

to walk around the world

but ended up in Brooklyn.

That Bridge was too much for me.

I have engaged in silence

exile and cunning.

I flew too near the sun

and my wax wings fell off

I am looking for my Old Man

whom I never knew.

I am looking for the Lost Leader

with whom I flew.

Young men should be explorers.

Home is where one starts from.

But Mother never told me

there'd be scenes like this.


I rest

I have travelled.

I have seen goof city.

I have seen the mass mess.

I have heard Kid Ory cry.

I have heard a trombone preach.

I have heard Debussy

strained thru a sheet.

I have slept in a hundred islands

where books were trees.

I have heard the birds

that sound like bells.

I have worn grey flannel trousers

and walked upon the beach of hell.

I have dwelt in a hundred cities

where trees were books.

What subways what taxis what cafes!

What women with blind breasts

limbs lost among skyscrapers!

I have seen the statues of heroes

at carrefours.

Danton weeping at a metro entrance

Columbus in Barcelona

pointing Westward up the Ramblas

toward the American Express

Lincoln in his stony chair

And a great Stone Face

in North Dakota.

I know that Columbus

did not invent America.

I have heard a hundred housebroken Ezra Pounds.

They should all be freed.

It is long since I was a herdsman.

I am leading a quiet life

in Mike's Place every day

reading the Classified columns.

I have read the Reader's Digest

from cover to cover

and noted the close identification

of the United States and the Promised Land

where every coin is marked

In God We Trust

but the dollar bills

do not have it being gods unto themselves.

I read the Want Ads daily

looking for a stone a leaf

an unfound door.

I hear America singing

in the Yellow Pages.

One could never tell

the soul has its rages.

I read the papers every day

and hear humanity amiss

in the sad plethora of print.

I see where Walden Pond has been drained

to make an amusement park.

I see they're making

Melville eat his whale.

I see another war is coming

but I won't be there to fight it.

I have read the writing

on the outhouse wall.

I helped Kilroy write it.

I marched up Fifth Avenue

blowing on a bugle in a tight platoon

but hurried back to the Casbah looking for my dog.

I see a similarity

between dogs and me.

Dogs are the true observers

walking up and down the world

thru the Molloy country.

I have walked down alleys

too narrow for Chryslers.

I have seen a hundred horseless milkwagons

in a vacant lot in Astoria.

Ben Shahn never painted them

but they're there

in a vacant lot in Astoria.

I have heard the junkman's obbligato.

I have ridden superhighways

and believed the billboard's promises

Crossed the Jersey Flats

and seen the Cities of the Plain

And wallowed in the wilds of Westchester

with its roving bands of natives

in stationwagons.

I have seen them.

I am the man.

I was there.

I suffered somewhat.

I am an American.

I have a passport.

I did not suffer in public.

And I'm too young to die.

I am a selfmade man.

And I have plans for the future.

I am in line

for a top job.

I may be moving on

to Detroit.

I am only temporarily

a tie salesman.

I am a good Joe.

I am an open book

to my boss.

I am a complete mystery

to my closest friends.

I am leading a quiet life

in Mike's Place every day

contemplating my navel.

I am a part

of the body's long madness.

I have wandered in various nightwoods.

I have leaned in drunken doorways.

I have written wild stories

without punctuation.

I am the man.

I was there.

I suffered


I have sat in an uneasy chair.

I am a tear of the sun.

I am a hill

where poets run.

I invented the alphabet

after watching the flight of cranes

who made letters with their legs.

I am a lake upon a plain

I am a word

in a tree.

I am a hill of poetry.

I am a raid

on the inarticulate.

I have dreamt

that all my teeth fell out

but my tongue lived

to tell the tale.

For I am a still

of poetry.

I am a bank of song.

I am a playerpiano

in an abandoned casino

on a seaside esplanade

in a dense fog

still paying.

I see a similarity

between the Laughing Woman

and myself.

I have heard the sound of summer

in the rain.

I have seen girls

on boardwalks

have complicated sensations.

I understand their hesitations.

I am a gatherer of fruit.

I have seen how kisses

cause euphoria.

I have risked enchantment.

I have seen the Virgin

in an appletree at Chartres

And Saint Joan burn

at the Bella Union.

I have seen giraffes in junglejims

their necks like love

wound around the iron circumstances

of the world.

I have seen the Venus Aphrodite

armless in her drafty corridor.

I have heard a siren sing

at One Fifth Avenue.

I have seen the White Goddess dancing

in the Rue des Beaux Arts

on the Fourteenth of July

and the Beautiful Dame Without Mercy

picking her nose in Chumley's.

She did not speak English.

She had yellow hair

and a hoarse voice

I am leading a quiet life

in Mike's Place every day

watching the pocket pool players

making the minestrone scene

wolfing the macaronis

and I have read somewhere

the Meaning of Existence

yet have forgotten

just exactly where.

But I am the man

And I'll be there.

And I may cause the lips

of those who are asleep

to speak.

And I may make my notebooks

into sheaves of grass.

And I may write my own

eponymus epitaph

instructing the horsemen

to pass. 








A VIDA que levo é muito sossegada

Passo os dias no café do Mike

admirando os campeões

de bilhar do grupo Dante

e os viciados de matraquilhos

A vida que levo é muito sossegada

na zona leste de Broadway

Sou americano

fui um rapaz americano

Lia o Magazine dos Rapazes Americanos

e tornei-me escuteiro

nos subúrbios

Julgava-me o Tom Sawver

pescando caranguejos no rio Bronx

pensando no Mississipi

Tive uma luva de baseball

e uma bicicleta American Flyer

Distribuí o Woman’s Home Companion

às cinco da tarde

ou o Herald Tribune

às cinco da manhã

Ainda ouço o jornal cair

em terraços esquecidos

Tive uma infância infeliz

Vi Lindberg aterrar

Olhei para a minha terra

mas não vi anjo nenhum

Fui apanhado a roubar lápis

num bazar barato

no mesmo mês fui promovido

a Escuteiro Chefe

Derrubei árvores para o Grémio da Agricultura

e sentei-me nelas

Desembarquei em Norrnandia

num barco a remos que virou

Vi exércitos educados

na praia de Dover

Vi pilotos egípcios em núvens purpúreas

negociantes enrolando seus toldes

ao meio dia

salada de batatas e dente de leão

em piqueniques anarquistas

Estou a ler «Lorna Doone»

e uma biografia de John Most

o terror dos industrialistas

sempre com uma bomba na gaveta

     da escrivaninha

Vi os lixeiros desfilarem

no dia comemorativo de Colombo

atrás das fanfarras ruidosas

Há tempos que não vou visitar os Claustros

ou as Tuileries

mas continuo a pensar lá ir

Vi os lixeiros desfilarem

debaixo da neve

Comi cachorros quentes nas feiras

Ouvi o Discurso de Gettysburg

e o Discurso do Ginsberg

Gosto disto por aqui

e não voltarei para onde vim

Também eu viajei em vagões de carga

 vagões de carga vagões de carga

Viajei no meio de desconhecidos

Estive em Ásia

Estive com Noé na Arca

estava na India

quando Roma foi construída

Estive na Manjedoura com o burro

Vi o distribuidor eterno

Ouvi um trombone pregar

Ouvi Debussy

filtrado por um lençol

Dormi numa centena de Ilhas

onde os livros eram árvores

Ouvi os pássaros

chilreando como sinos

Usei calças de flanela cinzenta

e caminhei pela praia do inferno

Vivi numa centena de cidades

onde as árvores eram livros

Que metros que táxis que cafés

Que mulheres de seios cegos

membros perdidos entre arranha-céus

Vi as estátuas dos heróis

nas encruzilhadas

Danton chorando na entrada do metro

Colombo em Barcelona

apontando p’ro oeste nas Ramblas

rumo ao American Express

Lincoln no seu trono de rocha

e um enorme Rosto de Pedra

no Dacota do Norte

Bem sei que o Colombo

não inventou a América

Ouvi uma centena de Ezra Pounds domesticados

Deviam soltá-los todos

Já passou muito tempo desde que fui pastor

A vida que levo é muito sossegada

Passo os dias no café do Mike  

lendo os anúncios classificados

Li duma ponta a outra

as Selecções do Reader’s Digest

e notei a perfeita identificação

entre os Estados Unidos e a Terra Prometida

Já que em todas as moedas está marcado

da Montanha Branca

ao sul de São Francisco

Vi a Mulher que Ri no Luna Parque

ao pé da Barraca das Gargalhadas

sob uma tempestade de chuva

sempre a rir-se

Ouvi os ruídos da noite

das grandes pândegas

Tenho vagueado tão só

como as multidões solitárias

A vida que levo é muito sossegada

Passo os dias à porta do café do Mike

a ver o mundo passar

em curiosos sapatos

comecei uma vez

uma volta ao mundo a pé

mas desisti em Brooklyn

Essa ponte era demais para mim

Já tentei o silêncio

o exílio e a astúcia

Voei demasiado perto do sol

e as minhas asas de cera derreteram-se

Ando à procura do meu Velho

que nunca conheci

Ando à procura do Lider Perdido

com quem voei

Os jovens deviam ser exploradores

O lar é o ponto da partida

Mas minha mãe nunca me disse

que podia haver cenas destas



Tento viajado

Visitei a cidade dos fantasmas

Conheço as massas amaçadas

Ouvi chorar o Kid Ory

«Confiamos em Deus»

mas nas notas de dólar não há nada inscrito

porque elas próprias já são Deus

Leio diariamente os anúncios «precisa-se»

a procura duma pedra duma folha

duma porta esquecida

Ouço a América cantar

nas Páginas Amarelas

Quem diria que a alma passa crises

Leio todos os dias os jornais

e noto a ausência da humanidade

nessa triste pletora da imprensa

Vejo que esvaziaram o Lago de Walden

para pôr lá um parque de diversões

Vejo que estão a obrigar o Melville

a comer sua própria,baleia

Vejo que vem aí uma nova guerra

mas não serei eu quem vai lutar nela

Li os grafitis do destino

nas paredes dos urinois

Fui eu quem ajudou o Kilroy a escrevê-los

Marchei pela Quinta Avenida acima

tocando clarim num severo pelotão

mas voltei rápido para o Casbah

à procura de meu cão

Noto alguma semelhança entre os cães e eu

Os cães são os verdadeiros observadores

correndo os quatro cantos do mundo

na terra de Molloy

Passeei-me por vielas

estreitas demais para Chryslers

Vi uma centena de carroças de leite sem cavalo

num terreno baldio nas Astúrias

Ben Shahn nunca as pintou

mas elas lá estão retorcidas nas Astúrias

Tenho ouvido o grito do sucateiro

percorri super-auto-estradas

e acreditei na promessa dos cartazes

Atravessei as planícies de Jersey

vi as suas cidades

e rebolei-me nas terras ermas de Westchester

com bandos errantes de nativos

em vagões de carga

Tenho-os visto

Sou o homem

Estive lá

Sofri um pouco

Sou americano

Tenho passaporte

Mas não sofri em público

E sou jovem demais para morrer

Sou um selfmademan

Tenho planos para o futuro

Estou na bicha para um bom emprego

Talvez me mude para Detroit

Por enquanto vendo gravatas

Sou um Zé Ninguém

Sou um livro aberto para o meu patrão

Sou um mistério impenetrável

para os meus amigos íntimos

A vida que levo é muito sossegada

Passo os dias no café do Mike

contemplando o umbigo

Sou uma parte da longa loucura do corpo

Tenho vagueado por bosques nocturnos

Tenho-me apoiado em portais bêbados.

Tenho escrito histórias frenéticas

sem pontuação

Sou o homem

Estive lá

Sofri um pouco

Sentei-me em cadeiras de cansaço

Sou uma lágrima do sol

Sou a colina onde os poeta trepam

Inventei o alfabeto

depois de observar o vôo das garças

que faziam letras com as pernas

Sou um lago na planície

Uma palavra numa árvore

Sou uma colina de poesia

Sou uma razia no inarticulado

sonhei que os dentes todos me caiam

mas a minha língua sobrevivia

para dizer como foi

Pois sou um silêncio poético

Sou um banco de canções

Sou um piano mecânico

num casino abandonado

numa esplanada à beira-mar

num nevoeiro espesso

mas sempre a tocar

Vejo uma semelhança

entre a Mulher que Ri e eu

Ouvi o som do verão na chuva

Vi raparigas em passadeiras de tábua

com estranhas sensações

compreendo suas hesitações

Sou um colhedor de fruta

Vi como os beijos causam euforia

Corri o risco de ficar encantado

Vi a Virgem

numa macieira em Chartres

e Santa Joana ardendo em Bella Union

Vi girafas em selva-ginásios

seus pescoços como o amor

entrelaçados nas circunstâncias de ferro

deste mundo

Vi Vénus Afrodite

em seu corredor ventoso

Ouvi uma sereia cantar

na Quinta Avenida

Vi a deusa branca bailando

na Rue des Beau’ Arts

no dia I4 de Julho

e a Bela Dama sem Mercé

com o dedo no nariz em Chumbley’s

Ela não falava inglês

Tinha cabelos amarelos e voz rouca

e nenhum pássaro cantava

A vida que levo é muito sossegada

passo os dias no café do Mike

observando os jogadores de bilhar de bolsa

nesse cenário ministroni

devorando macarroni

e li algures

o Significado da Existência

mas esqueci exactamente onde

Sou o homem

E estarei lá

E talvez faça despertar os lábios

da gente adormecida

E talvez transforme em folhas de relva

meus cadernos de apontamentos

E talvez escreva meu anónimo epitáfio

pedindo aos cavaleiros

que não se detenham









The dog trots freely in the street

and sees reality

and the things he sees

are bigger than himself

and the things he sees

are his reality

Drunks in doorways

Moons on trees

The dog trots freely thru the street

and the things he sees

are smaller than himself

Fish on newsprint

Ants in holes

Chickens in Chinatown windows

their heads a block away

The dog trots freely in the street

and the things he smells

smell something like himself

The dog trots freely in the street

past puddles and babies

cats and cigars

poolrooms and policemen

He doesn't hate cops

He merely has no use for them

and he goes past them

and past the dead cows hung up whole

in front of the San Francisco Meat Market

He would rather eat a tender cow

than a tough policeman

though either might do

And he goes past the Romeo Ravioli Factory

and past Coit's Tower

and past Congressman Doyle of the Unamerican Committee

He's afraid of Coit's Tower

but he's not afraid of Congressman Doyle

although what he hears is very discouraging

very depressing

very absurd

to a sad young dog like himself

to a serious dog like himself

But he has his own free world to live in

His own fleas to eat

He will not be muzzled

Congressman Doyle is just another

fire hydrant

to him

The dog trots freely in the street

and has his own dog's life to live

and to think about

and to reflect upon

touching and tasting and testing everything

investigating everything

without benefit of perjury

a real realist

with a real tale to tell

and a real tail to tell it with

a real live


                  democratic dog

engaged in real

                free enterprise

with something to say

                         about ontology

something to say

                about reality

                                and how to see it

                                              and how to hear it

with his head cocked sideways

                                at streetcorners

as if he is just about to have

                          his picture taken

                                              for Victor Records

                         listening for

                                His Master's Voice

        and looking

                       like a living questionmark

                                       into the

                                       great gramophone

                                   of puzzling existence

           with its wondrous hollow horn

              which always seems

               just about to spout forth

                                 some Victorious answer

                                     to everything





O cão trota livre pela rua

e vê a realidade

e as coisas que ele vê

são maiores do que ele

e as coisas que ele vê

são a realidade dele

Bêbados pelas portas

Luas suspensas nas árvores

O cão trota livre pela rua

e as coisas que ele vê

são mais pequenas que ele

Peixe em folha de jornal

Formigas em buracos

Galinhas nas vitrinas de Chinatown

de cabeças a um quarteirão de distância

O cão trota livre pela rua

e as coisas que cheira

cheiram um pouco como ele

O cão trota livre pela rua

passa por poças e bebés

gatos e charutos

salas de jogo e polícias

Ele não tem raiva aos polícias

apenas não lhe dizem respeito

e passa por eles

e passa por vacas mortas pendura as inteiras

frente ao Mercado de Carnes de São Francisco

Ele preferia comer uma vaca tenra

a um duro polícia

embora tanto um como outro possam servir

E passa pela Fábrica de Massas Italianas Romeo

e pela torre Coït

e pela estátua do Congressista Doyle

Ele tem medo da torre de Coít

m não tem medo do Congressista Doyle embora o que ouve seja muito d .sanim~ dor muito deprimente

muito absurdo

para um jovem cão triste como ele

para um cão sério como ele

Mas tem o seu próprio mundo livre para viver

as suas próprias pulgas para morder

e não aceitará o açaime

Para ele o Congressista Doyle

é mais uma bomba de incêndio na rua

O cão trota livre pela rua

tem a sua própria vida para viver

e para pensar

e para reflectir

tocando provando e experimentando tudo

investigando tudo

sem benefícios nem dúvidas

um realista real

que tem um conto real para contar

e uma cauda real para o contar

um cão que ladra realmente



envolvido na real

     livre iniciativa

        com alguma coisa a dizer

         sobre a ontologia

       alguma coisa a dizer

 sobre a realidade

       e como a ver

                   e a ouvir

        com a cabeça sempre de lado

          nas esquinas

como se lhe estivessem

               a tirar o retrato

                   para os discos Victor


                   a Voz do Dono

fazendo lembrar

             um ponto de interrogação vivo

                   virado para o grande gramofone

     da existência intrigante

com seu prodigioso corno oco

             que parece pronto

                   a cuspir uma resposta

 alguma resposta Victoriosa

                   para tudo









I was conceived in the summer of Nineteen Eighteen

(or was it Thirty Eight)

when some kind of war was going on

but it didn’t stop two people

from making love in Ossining that year

I like to think on a riverbank in sun

on a picnic by the Hudson

as in a painting of the Hudson River School

or up at Bear Mountain maybe

after taking the old Hudson River Line

paddlewheel excursion steamer

(I may have added the paddlewheel)—

the Hudson my Mississippi)

And on the way back she

already carried me inside of her

I lawrence ferlinghetti

wrought from the dark in my mother long ago

born in a small back bedroom—

In the next room my brother heard

the first cry,

many years later wrote me—

“Poor Mom—No husband—No money—Pop dead—

How she went through it all—”

Someone squeezed my heart

to make it go

I cried and sprang up

Open eye open heart where

do I wander

into the heart of the world

Carried away

by another I knew not

And which of me shall know my brother?

“I am my son, my mother, my father,

I am born of myself

my own flesh sucked’

And someone squeezed my heart

to make me go

And I began to go

through my number

I was a wind-up toy

someone had dropped wound-up

into a world already

running down

The world had been going on

a long time already

but it made no difference

It was new it was like new

i made it new

i saw it shining

and it shone in the sun

and it spun in the sun

and the skein it spun

was pure light

My life was made of it

made of the skeins of light

The cobwebs of Night

were not on it

were not of it

It was too bright

to see

too luminous too numinous

to cast a shadow

and there was another world

behind the bright screens

I had only to close my eyes

for another world to appear

too near and too dear

to be anything but myself

my inside self

where everything real

was to happen

in this place which still exists

inside myself

and hasn’t changed that much

certainly not as much

as the outside

with its bag of skin

and its ‘aluminum bear”

and its blue eyes

which see as one eye

in the middle of the head

where everything happens

except what happens

in the heart

vajra lotus diamond heart

wherein I read

the poem that never ends


             CONFISSÃO A SÉRIO



Fui concebido no verão I9I8

(ou era 38)

durante uma guerra qualquer

o que não impediu duas pessoas

de fazer amor em Ossining esse ano

gosto de imaginar isso ao sol nas margens dum rio

durante um piquenique ao pé do Hudson

como num quadro da escola de Hudson

ou então no Bear Mountain talvez

depois de ter apanhado o antigo paddlewheel a vapor

(talvez tenha acrescentado o paddlewheel —

O Hudson é o meu Mississipi).

E de regresso ela

trazia-me já

dentro dela

eu lawrence ferlinghetti

arrancado da obscuridade de minha mãe há muito tempo

nascido num pequeno quarto —

No quarto do lado meu irmão ouviu

o primeiro grito

muitos anos depois escreveu-me –«coitadinha da mãe - sem marido - sem dinheiro - pai morto Como aguentou ela tudo isso —»

Alguém me espremeu o coração

para a pôr a andar

Gritei e saltei

Olho aberto Coração aberto a mais

onde vagueio

Gritei e saltei

no coração do mundo


por um outro que desconhecia

E qual eu conhecerá meu irmão?

«Sou filho de mim mesmo sou minha mãe, meu pai,

Nascido de mim próprio

minha própria carne mamada»

E alguém me espremeu o coração

para me pôr a andar

E pus-me a fazer

o meu número

Era um brinquedo de dar à corda

que alguém deixou cair

num mundo já gasto

O mundo girava já

há muito tempo

mas não fazia diferença

estava novo estava como novo

tornei-o novo

e vi-o brilhar

e brilhava ao sol

e girava ao sol

e o eixo que fiava

era de pura luz

Minha vida estava feita

de eixos de luz

As teias d’aranha da Noite

não estavam nela

não faziam parte dela

Era demasiado brilhante

de ver

demasiado luminoso

para fazer uma sombra

e havia um outro mundo

por detrás das cortinas brilhantes

bastava fechar os olhos

para que outro mundo surgisse

tão perto e tão querido

que só podia ser eu mesmo

meu eu interior

onde tudo o que é real

havia de acontecer

neste lugar que existe ainda

em mim

e que não mudou muito

certamente menos

que o exterior

com seu saco de pele

e sua «barba d’alumínio»

e seus olhos azuis azuis

que vêem como um só olho

no meio da testa

onde tudo acontece

salvo o que acontece

no coração

vajra lótus coração de diamante

no qual leio

o poema que não tem fim








Is this the mouth of truth

in the face of this woman

walking across the Piazza

Bocca de/la Verità

where the great round stone is set up

in lhe portico of the Church of

Santa Maria in Cosmedin

her little feet taking her

past the Temple of the Virgins

past the Temple of the Phallus

and past the Street of the Misericordia

She has not been kneeling

in any church

She trots along on her too high heels

She has smart rhinestone glasses

and silk pants very well cut

She has a sweet face

spoiled by lipstick

a botched attempt

at something but the truth

She could be the daughter of a shah

but she isn’t

She’s some secretary

Late at the office

the boss was beastly tonight

Her mouth must have answered

Those rouge lips could cope with

any tongue

She’s tough in a way

but not so tough

Sue has her soft spots

her lower lip

is very sensitive

You can tell there are other soft places

from that

She has her cigarette lit

in her right hand

the same hand she may have put

into the Mouth of Truth

that great round pagan stone

at the mouth of the church

which will bite off your hand

if you’re hiding some lie

She did not put her head

into the mouth of the lion

Her left hand has rings

in the wrong places

She doesn’t have a boyfriend

this year

but she has her cigarette

You can tell it is a dose friend

the way she fondles it

It is a filter tip

She is looking forward

to lying down on her bed

in the dark

in her slip

with the window open

There is a tree outside

In the morning a bird

She is smoking her cigarette

her mouth of truth around the filter

which has filtered out

all but the truth

The truth will come through

the truth will out

the mouth fall open

when she’s asleep of her back

by the open window

by the tree with its leaves like lips

the lower lip so sensitive

will quiver

the throat utter some deep sound

the tongue mute messenger

with its speechless truth

To whom will she tell it

in what dream...







Será isto a boca da Verdade

no rosto desta mulher

atravessando a Piazza

    «Bocca della Verita»

Onde se ergue a grande pedra redonda

no pórtico da igreja en Cosmedin

De seus pequenos pés

ela ultrapassa

o Templo das virgens

o Templo do falus

e a rua da misericórdia

Ela não se ajoelhou

em nenhuma igreja

Ela trota em tacões bem altos

tem óculos em cristal de rocha

e umas calças muito bem cortadas

Ela tem um belo rosto

estragado por rouge à lèvres

numa tentativa falhada

tudo salvo a Verdade

Ela podia ser a filha de um Shah

mas não o é

Ela é uma secretária

demorada no escritório

O patrão estava odioso

         esta noite

sua boca deve ter respondido

seus lábios vermelhos poderiam bater

não importa qual língua

Ela é dura à sua maneira

mas nem tanto dura

Ela tem seus pontos fracos

seu lábio inferior

é muito delicado

podem ver-se outros pontos fracos


Ela tem um cigarro aceso

na mão direita

a mesma mão que podia ter

metido na boca da Verdade

essa grande pedra pagã redonda

na boca da igreja

que vos morderá a mão

se vós escondereis uma mentira

Ela não meteu sua cabeça

na boca do leão

sua mão esquerda tem anéis

nos dedos errados

Este ano

Ela não tem namorado

mas tem seu cigarro

vê-se bem que é um amigo intimo

na maneira como ela o carícia

É um cigarro de filtro

Ela está impaciente

de se deitar Na cama

na obscuridade

com sua camisa

a janela aberta

lá fora uma árvore

de manhã um pássaro

Ela fuma seu cigarro

com a boca da Verdade

 em volta do filtro

que filtrou tudo

salvo a Verdade

a Verdade passará

a Verdade sairá

a boca abrir-se-á

quando adormecer de costas

perto da janela aberta

perto da árvore

de folhas como lábios

O lábio inferior tão delicado

vai tremer

de sua garganta sairá um som profundo

a língua mensageiro mudo

com sua verdade sem palavras

A quem o dirá ela

em qual sonho

e qual «sombrio pombo

                     de língua vibrante»

passará debaixo do horizonte

de sua espera?





  Traduções de André Shan Lima  e Isabelle Lima, de Lawrence Ferlinghetti, A boca da verdade, Edição de Autor e tradutores, I986, La Garenne, France  





Into Darkness, in Granada


O if I were not so unhappy

I could write great poetry!

Dusk falls through the olive trees

Federico Garcia Lorca

Leaps about among them

Dodging the dark as it falls upon him

O if only I could leap like him

And make great songs

Instead I swing about wildly

as in a children’s

jungle gym

in a vacant lot by Ben Shahn

jump up suddenly

upon the back of a running horse

in the face of a plains’ twister

And paddle away slowly

into total darkness

in a Dove boat.







San Francisco Chronicle


Catching up with Lawrence Ferlinghetti


Heidi Benson, Chronicle Staff Writer

Thursday, March 19, 2009


On Tuesday, poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti turns 90. Nearly 60 years ago, he came to San Francisco, fell in love with this "small white city," and soon after co-founded City Lights Books. One of the most vibrant and long-lived cultural institutions in town, the store remains an international magnet for the imaginative, as does the Web site for City Lights Booksellers & Publishers (Citylights.com). Just this week, production began on a film based on the obscenity trial over Ferlinghetti's publication of Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl."

Mayor Gavin Newsom has declared that March 24 will henceforth be called "Lawrence Ferlinghetti Day," in honor of his "enormous contributions to our city's life and culture," while the bookstore staff invites everyone to send along birthday wishes, via e-mail, to: lfbirthday@citylights.com.

Q: When you were named San Francisco's first poet laureate in 1998, you spoke of the damage to the culture caused by the yawning gap between the city's rich and poor. Have your worst fears been borne out?

A: When I arrived in the city, the citizens seemed to have an island, considering San Francisco a kind of offshore republic, founded by gold miners and gold diggers, cast-off seamen and vagabonds, railroad barons and rogue adventurers and ladies of fortune. What with the electronic revolution and the Information Age, we have joined the rest of the world.

Oldies such as myself talk about the good old days with nostalgia since that was when they were young and beautiful (and full of testosterone).

Q: You served as a ship's commander in the Pacific during World War II. What's the most important thing you learned in the Navy?

A: In four years at sea, I learned that the sea is a monster and can turn on you at any time. Seeing Nagasaki made me an instant pacifist.

Q: How have the concerns of poets changed since you began writing?

A: In the social revolution of the 1960s, the chant was "Be here now." Today with television, e-mail and especially cell phones, it's "Be somewhere else now."

Q: Your favorite 19th century American poet?

A: Walt Whitman, of course. He gave voice to the people and articulated an American populist consciousness.

Q: Why do you prefer the term wide-open poetry to Beat poetry?

A: I never wrote "Beat" poetry. Wide-open poetry refers to what Pablo Neruda told me in Cuba in 1950 at the beginning of the Fidelista revolution: Neruda said, "I love your wide-open poetry."

He was either referring to the wide-ranging content of my poetry, or, in a different mode, to the poetry of the Beats. Wide-open poetry also refers to the "open form" typography of a poem on the page. (A term borrowed from the gestural painting of the Abstract Expressionists.)

Q: Can writing be taught?

A: It has to be taut.

Q: Is texting poetry?

A: It can be.

Q: You've always been an activist, as well as an artist. What do you advise activists who are complacent now that a new, seemingly more enlightened administration is in charge?

A: The dictatorial reign of George the Second almost destroyed our civil liberties as well as our economy.

We shall now see whether an "enlightened" administration can defeat Washington, D.C.,'s culture of corruption. The press has given socialism a bad name, falsely equating it with Soviet Communism. What is needed today is a form of civil libertarian socialism in which all democratic civil rights are fully protected.

What with shrinking energy resources and radical climate change, a worldwide planned economy is needed. Why won't any politician even whisper it?

Q: In the upcoming film of "Howl," James Franco will play Allen Ginsberg. Who is playing you?

A: Charlie Chaplin.

Q: Who is the love of your life?

A: Life itself is the love of my life.

Q: What's the secret of your beautiful skin?

A: Genetics.



San Francisco Chronicle


Ferlinghetti argues that poetry can save the world

Steve Heilig

Sunday, December 30, 2007


Poetry as Insurgent Art

By Lawrence Ferlinghetti



What is the "use" of poetry? Or, as more than one author has asked, Can Poetry Matter?

More than 50 years ago, renowned American poet William Carlos Williams wrote famously that "It is difficult/ to get the news from poems/ yet men die miserably every day/ for lack/ of what is found there."

A practical man who was not only a poet but also a practicing physician, Williams' lines are usually read to imply that poetry - good poetry, at least - is essential to one's inner life and spirit. In the cultural doldrums of the early 1950s, that rang true for many people.

Around the same time Williams wrote those lines, Lawrence Ferlinghetti arrived in San Francisco, fresh from Paris with a doctorate from the Sorbonne and a love of the printed word. He soon co-founded the landmark and still-thriving City Lights Bookstore and publishers, issuing not only his own work but also the first printing of Allen Ginsberg's iconic poem "Howl" and many other works by writers who became known as Beat and others. Ferlinghetti has been poet laureate of San Francisco, received numerous awards both literary and civic, had his paintings widely exhibited and printed and, nearing 90 years of age, is about as famous as a poet can be in these times.

In other words, Ferlinghetti should need no introduction. That he still might, to the vast majority of Americans who rarely, if ever, read poetry, is part of the lamentable background to his latest book. It has been argued that the current decade is the 1950s all over again, but worse. And for Ferlinghetti, poetry's "use" extends far beyond the personal into the political. "Poetry can save the world by transforming consciousness," he argues in "Poetry as Insurgent Art," a slim hardback pocketbook manifesto of prose epigrams, seemingly addressed to poets and those who might be.

"I am signaling you through the flames," he begins in the new section from which his book takes its title. "The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it." Poetry, in this vision, must be a political statement, arrows slung for freedom of expression, thought and resistance. "Write living newspapers," he counsels. "Your poems must be more than want ads for broken hearts" - in other words, to paraphrase Bertolt Brecht, to write mere "love poetry" in such times is "almost a crime." So "challenge capitalism masquerading as democracy"; "Liberate have-nots and enrage despots"; "Don't cater to the Middle Mind of America nor to consumer society." And so on, in variations of his admonition to "be committed to something outside yourself."

This is a tall order for poetry, to be sure. But the six or seven (mostly) one-liners on each of the 30 pages are testament to Ferlinghetti's enduring vision and commitment. Some of these lines read as if they could have been penned in the Beat heyday, decades ago: "Stand up for the stupid and crazy"; "Dig folksingers who are the true singing poets of yesterday and today." Political economy, down-home mysticisms, and occasional cringe-worthy silliness ("Make permanent waves, and not just on the heads of stylish women") all blend into his own version of Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet." Thus, poets should "see eternity in the eyes of animals," but not "be too arcane for the man in the street." Ferlinghetti can be self-deprecating: "Don't lecture like this. Don't say don't." But he is also dead serious: "Don't let them tell you poetry is bull-" and, especially, "Don't ever believe poetry is irrelevant in dark times." Indeed, as Williams would probably agree, in dark times and in this vision, poetry becomes even more essential.

The second major section of the book, "What Is Poetry?," was started by Ferlinghetti in the late 1950s; here he provides backup for his argument for the importance of poetry, and that "life lived with poetry in mind is itself an art." Here, the political returns - somewhat - to the personal, as "poetry is the shortest distance between two humans," is "the anarchy of the senses making sense"; and "it is a pulsing fragment of the inner life, an untethered music" which "restores wonder and innocence."

Again, a lofty charge, but many have believed it, and some, such as Ferlinghetti, have lived it - even though, as he acidly quips (echoing Ginsberg's famed opening lines to "Howl") in "The Populist Manifesto" appended here, "We have seen the best minds of our generation/ destroyed by boredom at poetry readings."

This impassioned, compact and concise little book won't destroy any minds. But it may stoke some hearts, as Ferlinghetti intends. Long may he add to his poetic warning: "Wake up, the world's on fire!"


Steve Heilig is a writer, editor and public health advocate in San Francisco, a frequent book critic and a music critic for the Beat magazine.



San Francisco Chronicle


Monday, September 24, 2012


Lawrence Ferlinghetti's indelible image

Julian Guthrie
Lawrence Ferlinghetti was in his early 30s when he wrote a poem of hope and innocence about a penny candy store in New York and the magic to be found in jellybeans and licorice sticks, about the evanescence of a rainy September afternoon.

Sixty years later, Ferlinghetti has written a new book-length poem, "Time of Useful Consciousness," where "technocracy" dominates the heart, where corporations rule the people, where man is greedy and badly educated, and Walt Whitman's optimism is needed - as time is running out.

Since the 1950s, Ferlinghetti has been a San Francisco institution. He opened City Lights in North Beach, a renowned bookstore that attracts visitors from across the world. He stood behind the publication of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl," an act of daring that changed the course of publishing in America. He penned dozens of books, published breakthrough works - including the Beat writers, who insisted on oral incantations - and became San Francisco's first poet laureate and its most lyrical town crier.

"My poetry, including 'The Time of Useful Consciousness,' is activism," Ferlinghetti said, sitting in a cafe in North Beach near his home. "Ecologically and politically, it's a totally dim prospect."

The 93-year-old poet spends one day a week at City Lights, and on other days can be found at his painter's studio in Hunters Point. Painting, he says, is the lighter antidote to his more painstaking poetry. With his keen blue eyes, white beard and snazzy, paint-streaked sneakers, he looks every bit the part of painter, poet and gentleman radical.

"The norm is that when people get older, they get more politically conservative, but it's been the opposite for me," Ferlinghetti said with a laugh.


Striving to improve world

Ferlinghetti's biographer, Bill Morgan, an archivist and bibliographer for Ginsberg, said the San Francisco poet has always been "interested in making things better and calling attention to the crazy things going on."

"Lawrence is still an activist interested in the politics of our time," Morgan said. "He's a really good performer of his poetry. He does not consider himself a Beat poet, but he was a publisher of the Beats. And City Lights is one of the best book stores in the country - and it's been there for 60 years."

Barry Gifford, the Bay Area author, screenwriter and poet who was friends with Ginsberg, was introduced to Ferlinghetti's poetry in high school.

"When I was a kid in high school, I remember someone had 'A Coney Island of the Mind,' and it made a real impression," Gifford said of Ferlinghetti's book of poetry, which has sold more than 1 million copies. "Lawrence has a way of saying what he needs to say in a style that is immediately comprehensible. He's always been able to communicate with his poetry better than most."

Gifford added, "Lawrence's connection with the Beats is not to be underestimated, but he has made - and continues to make - a lasting contribution to American literature."

Ferlinghetti was born in Yonkers, N.Y., in March 1919. His father, Carlo Ferlinghetti, died before he was born. His mother, Clemence, overcome by stress, asked a relative to care for Lawrence, the youngest of her five boys. Only later did he reconnect with his family.


Awakened to activism

He earned his bachelor's degree in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; his master's at Columbia University, with a thesis on critic John Ruskin and painter J.M.W. Turner; and his doctorate at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1950, where he studied comparative literature and delivered his thesis (in French) on "The City as a Symbol in Modern Poetry."

He attended the Sorbonne on the GI Bill, having served as a lieutenant commander in the Navy during World War II.
"I was the all-American boy, the Eagle Scout," Ferlinghetti said. "I remember I was at my girlfriend's apartment, and there were these strange publications like the Nation and the New Republic. I started looking at them and thought, 'Gee, this is weird; people saying things against America?' It was an awakening. On the East Coast, I'd never even heard of conscientious objectors."

Ferlinghetti came to San Francisco in January 1951, knowing no one and having little money. He walked up Market Street from the Ferry Building, and asked a passer-by for the Bohemian part of town. Soon settled in North Beach, he began listening to KPFA, the free, independent FM radio station that included a weekly segment by Kenneth Rexroth, the poet, essayist and philosophical anarchist.


Partnering for City Lights

The idea of City Lights came about by chance.

"I was coming up from my painting studio, and I drove up Columbus Avenue," Ferlinghetti said. "It was a route I wouldn't normally take, and I saw a guy putting up a sign where City Lights is now." Ferlinghetti hopped out of his car and went to say hello.

"I said, 'What are you doing?' and he said, 'I'm starting a paperback bookstore, but I don't have any money. I've got $500.' I said, 'I have $500.' The whole thing took about five minutes. We shook hands, and the store opened in June 1953 as City Lights Pocket Bookshop."

Ferlinghetti's partner was Peter Martin, a sociology student at San Francisco State who had been publishing a small magazine called City Lights. Martin was the first to publish the works of Pauline Kael - who was another KPFA contributor and would go on to be a film critic for the New Yorker.

"Peter's idea was to sell quality paperbacks, which were just coming onto the market," Ferlinghetti said. "At the time, paperback books weren't considered real books by the trade. They were just these 25-cent pocketbooks that were merchandized like newspapers on the newsstands, but the newsstand guys didn't understand what they had."

Around the same time, Ferlinghetti married Selden Kirby-Smith, who went by "Kirby." She was the granddaughter of a Civil War general and the daughter of a successful doctor, and she had earned her master's degree from Columbia. The two met in 1946 aboard a ship en route to France. They were both heading to Paris to study at the Sorbonne.


Obscenity trial for 'Howl'

In 1955, Ferlinghetti went to a poetry reading at the Six Gallery on Fillmore Street to hear Philip Lamantia, Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, Michael McClure and Ginsberg - all introduced by Rexroth. Jack Kerouac also was there but declined to read.

It was Ginsberg's first public reading of his wild, graphic and shattering poem, "Howl," which opens with the lines: "I saw the best of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix."

"Allen gave me the manuscript a couple of weeks before the public reading," Ferlinghetti said. "What a great poet does is let you see the world in a way you've never seen it before. That's what Allen did."

The day after the reading, Ferlinghetti sent a Western Union telegram to Ginsberg, who was staying in Berkeley. "I wrote, 'I greet you at the beginning of a great career,' which is what Emerson wrote to Whitman when he first read 'The Leaves of Grass.' I asked, 'When do we get the manuscript?' "

"Howl and Other Poems" was the fourth book in Ferlinghetti's City Lights' Pocket Poets Series, and featured an introduction by William Carlos Williams. In 1957, hundreds of copies of the book were seized by U.S. customs officials - who stated, "You wouldn't want your children to come across it" - and Ferlinghetti was charged with obscenity in a trial that drew international attention.
"We had submitted the manuscript to the ACLU ahead of time, asking if they would defend us if we were busted," Ferlinghetti said. "They committed themselves ahead of time. Of course, when the trial began, I was young and stupid and thought a few months in jail would be OK; I'd have a lot of time to read."


Free flow of literature

Ferlinghetti won that year, when the Municipal Court judge ruled that the poem couldn't be deemed obscene because it had "redeeming social significance."

"That established us as an independent bookstore," Ferlinghetti said. "And after that, the floodgates were open. Grove Press - which spent a lot of money on the trial - was able to publish 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' and Henry Miller's books and so on." City Lights also was known for carrying the first gay, lesbian and transgender publications.

While many of his writers were known for drug and alcohol use - he once lent his Big Sur cabin to Kerouac to dry out - Ferlinghetti always made it home for dinner.

"My mother was very protective in terms of who we had over at the house," said daughter Julie Ferlinghetti Susser, who now lives in Tennessee. "We had Gregory Corso to our house, and he once tried to shoot up. He was never allowed back. My mother did really like Kerouac. Ginsberg would come over whenever he was in town, and my mother tolerated him. He was never interested in what women had to say."


Immediacy of painting

Throughout her childhood, Susser remembers something else: "I would sit by the door every night, waiting for my dad. ... He was home every day by 5:30 or 6. I remember I begged and pleaded for a pony, and my dad got me one. I saw him as a businessman who went to work and came home at the same time. He always made things fun."

The Ferlinghettis, who divorced in 1973 but remained close, also had a son, Lorenzo, who lives in Bolinas and has two children. Kirby Ferlinghetti died this year and is buried in their family plot in Bolinas.

These days, the poet is gravitating to painting. George Krevsky, Ferlinghetti's longtime gallerist, said, "When I first met Lawrence, I said, 'I've met two great poets - you and Robert Frost,' and he said, 'You should see my paintings.' "

For Ferlinghetti, painting is a "lyrical escape," a way to express himself that has more immediacy than his poems.

"It's easier to get high doing a painting," he said, walking home from the North Beach cafe. "For one thing, it's more instantaneous. A book - this new book of mine - is two years of work. Whereas a painting, I might have one in a day. I feel like I can take a lot of chances in painting."

Ferlinghetti's outlook, like his poetry and like his paintings, moves from dark to light, from foreboding to hopeful. He looks at poems such as "The Pennycandystore" as embodying a time of innocence for himself, and America.

"I wrote that in the early '50s," he said of the candy store poem. "America was full of hope."


Sending a lifeline to culture

The title of his new work, "Time of Useful Consciousness," to be released in October, comes from an aeronautical term denoting the time between when one loses oxygen and when one passes out, the moments when it's still possible to save your life.

"It's a statement about where culture is," Ferlinghetti said. Smiling, his blue eyes taking in the sunshine in North Beach, he added, "I'm trying to be an optimist."


Julian Guthrie is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.