“USA: Poetry” (1965)

February 23, 2021 at 7:18 pm (Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Poetry & Literature, The Beats)

Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti

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Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919-2021)

February 23, 2021 at 4:55 pm (Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Life & Politics, Poetry & Literature, The Beats)

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Lawrence Ferlinghetti – “Pity the Nation” (2007)

December 13, 2018 at 6:56 am (Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Life & Politics, Poetry & Literature, The Beats)

(After Khalil Gibran)

Pity the nation whose people are sheep

And whose shepherds mislead them

Pity the nation whose leaders are liars

Whose sages are silenced

And whose bigots haunt the airwaves

Pity the nation that raises not its voice

Except to praise conquerors

And acclaim the bully as hero

And aims to rule the world

By force and by torture

Pity the nation that knows

No other language but its own

And no other culture but its own

Pity the nation whose breath is money

And sleeps the sleep of the too well fed

Pity the nation oh pity the people

who allow their rights to erode

and their freedoms to be washed away

                       My country, tears of thee

                            Sweet land of liberty!

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

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“Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder” (Trailer – 2009)

April 27, 2018 at 7:47 pm (Lawrence Ferlinghetti, The Beats)

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Lawrence Ferlinghetti – “Allen Ginsberg Dying” (1997)

May 12, 2011 at 12:59 pm (Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Poetry & Literature, The Beats)

Allen Ginsburg is dying
It's all in the papers
It's on the evening news
A great poet is dying
But his voice
	   won't die
His voice is on the land
In Lower Manhattan
in his own bed
he is dying
There is nothing 
to do about it
He is dying the death that everyone dies
He is dying the death of a poet
He has a telephone in his hand
and he calls everyone
from his bed in Lower Manhattan

Read the rest of this entry »

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Lawrence Ferlinghetti – “An Elegy on the Death of Kenneth Patchen”

May 6, 2009 at 6:05 pm (Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Poetry & Literature, The Beats)

A poet is born
A poet dies
And all that lies between
is us
and the world

And the world lies about it
making as if it had got his message
even though it is poetry
but most of the world wishing
it could just forget about him
and his awful strange prophecies

Along with all the other strange things
he said about the world
which were all too true
and which made them fear him
more than they loved him
though he spoke much of love

Along with all the alarms he sounded
which turned out to be false
if only for the moment
all of which made them fear his tongue
more than they loved him
Though he spoke much of love
and never lived by ‘silence exile & cunning’
and was a loud conscientious objector to
the deaths we daily give each other
though we speak much of love

And when such a one dies
even the agents of Death should take note
and shake the shit from their wings
in Air Force One
But they do not
And the shit still flies
And the poet now is disconnected
and won’t call back
though he spoke much of love

And still we hear him say
‘Do I not deal with angels
when her lips I touch’
And still we hear him say
‘0 my darling troubles heaven
with her loveliness’
And still we hear him say
‘As we are so wonderfully done with each other
We can walk into our separate ‘sleep
On floors of music where the milkwhite cloak
of childhood lies’

And still we hear him saying
‘Therefore the constant powers do not lessen
Nor is the property of the spirit scattered
on the cold hills of these events’
And still we hear him asking
‘Do the dead know what time it is?’

He is gone under
He is scattered
and knows what time
but won’t be back to tell it
He would be too proud to call back anyway
And too full of strange laughter
to speak to us anymore anyway

And the weight of human experience
lies upon the world
like the chains of the ‘sea
in which he sings
And he swings in the tides of the sea
And his ashes are washed
in the ides of the sea
And ‘an astonished eye looks out of the air’
to see the poet singing there

And dusk falls down a coast somewhere

where a white horse without a rider
turns its head
to the sea

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

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Lawrence Ferlinghetti – “The Changing Light”

November 19, 2008 at 12:04 pm (Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Poetry & Literature, The Beats)


The changing light
                at San Francisco
      is none of your East Coast light
          none of your
                pearly light of Paris
The light of San Francisco
                 is a sea light
                        an island
And the light of fog
                blanketing the hills
           drifting in at night
              through the Golden Gate
                      to lie on
the city at dawn
And then the halcyon late mornings
              after the fog burns off
                and the sun paints white houses
                    with the sea
light of Greece
              with sharp clean shadows
                  making the town look like
                      it had just been

But the wind comes up at four o’clock
                      sweeping the

And then the veil of light of early evening

And then another scrim
                when the new night fog
                      floats in
And in that vale of light
              the city drifts
upon the ocean.

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Lawrence Ferlinghetti – “Untamed Poet Crosses River” (2001)

October 27, 2008 at 9:50 am (Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Reviews & Articles, The Beats)

Ferlinghetti wrote this obituary for fellow Beat poet Gregory Corso, upon his death in 2001…

Most obituaries are total eulogies, uncontaminated by any unkind cuts at the beloved or other straight talk. Don’t “dis” the dead, etc. Well, that’s OK for some dead folk, but not for Gregory Nunzio Corso who crossed the big river this past January 17th.
The announcement of a memorial service for him in lower Manhattan proclaimed he was “America’s greatest lyric poet,” although he certainly wasn’t as lyrical as Whitman or Edna St.Vincent Millay, or even the early e.e.cummings.
But that kind of judgment is always subjective and personal, isn’t it? Corso was lyrical all right, but in a highly original, cutting sort of way.
On the back of Corso’s early City Lights book, Gasoline, Jack Kerouac said, “Gregory was a tough young kid from the Lower East Side who rose like an angel over the rooftops and sang Italian songs as sweet as Caruso and Sinatra, but in words. ‘Sweet Milanese hills’ brood in his Renaissance soul, evening is coming on the hills. Amazing and beautiful Gregory Corso, the one and only Gregory the Herald.” Very poetic– but “sweet” is one thing Corso wasn’t every day. (“Bittersweet” would be closer.) And it wasn’t Milanese hills in his soul. He was no refined northern Italian, but a Calabrese, born in 1930 in Greenwich Village of parents from the very depths of the Mezzogiorno. And Gregorio was mezzogiorno through and through, handsomely dark, heavy-browed, often brooding, like that savage landscape on the unshod boot of southernmost Italy, swept with burning sun and storms. And he had its dark lyric spirit that could burst forth untutored and raw in great raves of poetry.
And he was always in your face, often not singing sweetly, but challenging you in some wild way, daring you or putting you on, shaking you up or at least mocking your ordinary way of looking at things. How many times did I hear him interrupt some solemn voice on stage with a loud shout from the back of the hall, comic or obscene, the outsider challenging the whole scene? But he was no mere egocentric wiseacre. He was a tragi-comic poet with a crazy sense of humor, as in poems such as his much-quoted “Marriage” with its parody of T.S.Eliot’s “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”
And a trait of his that has never been noted is that he had a great graphic talent and could have been a great painter, if he hadn’t been so heavily into poetry, drugs, booze, and women. Some of his classic paintings and drawings were exhibited early in the 1990s at New York University’s Beat Art show. Graphically, he was the equal of any of the New York School painters who hung out with the poets at the old Cedar tavern in Greenwich Village in the 1950s and 60s. When he drew with pentel or brush he had a classic line that was instantly recognizable as his own, much in the way Picasso’s line was distinctively his and no one else’s.
Ed Sanders’ Woodstock Journal published a beautiful obit, including a note from poet Robert Creeley that said Corso “had been ill for much of the past year but had recovered from time to time, saying that he’d got to the classic river but lacked the coin for Charon to carry him over. So he just dipped his toe in the water.” Some of Corso’s most powerful poems focussed on death, as was the case with so many other great poets. (The second and last reading that Dylan Thomas gave in San Francisco in the 1950s was totally centered on death, with poems by many others as well as himself.) Corso’s mad mouthfuls challenged death as he challenged everything else. Read his dire comic eulogy to it in “Bomb” to get the full blast.
But even in death, this gadfly wordslinger is triumphing on his own terms. He wanted to be buried in Venice or Rome, and in the latter he might well have been happy under the paving stones of the Campo dei Fiori, in the center of which is a statue of Giordano Bruno, the heretic burned unrepentant by the Church in 1600, whom Corso no doubt saw as a brother. But the British Romantic, Percy Bysshe Shelley, was Corso’s most loved poet, and Shelley is in the Protestant cemetery in the workingclass Testaccio district of Rome. That’s where Gregory’s going, thanks to the initiative of his friends, including attorney Robert Yarra, George Scrivani. and a powerful lady in Rome named Hannalorie.
So, farewell, devilish angel poet, hail and farewell!

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Lawrence Ferlinghetti – “Totalitarian Democracy” (2004)

August 2, 2008 at 4:07 pm (Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Poetry & Literature, The Beats)

The first fine dawn of life on earth
The first light of the first morning
The first evening star
The first man on the moon seen from afar
The first voyage of Ulysses westward
The first fence on the last frontier
The first tick of the atomic clock of fear
The first Home Sweet Home so dear
The sweet smell of honeysuckle at midnight
The first free black man free of fright
The sweet taste of freedom
The first good orgasm
The first Noble Savage
The first Pale Face settler on the first frontier
The first ball park hotdog with mustard
The first home run in Yankee Stadium
The first song of love and forty cries of despair
The first pure woman passing fair
The sweet smell of success
The first erection and the first Resurrection
The first darling buds of May
The last covered wagon through the Donner Pass
The first green sprouts of new grass
The last cry of Mark Twain! on the Mississippi
The First and Last Chance Saloon
The ghostly galleon of the half-moon
The first cry of pure joy in morning light
The distant howl of trains lost in book of night
The last new moon sinking
The last of the Mohicans
The last sweet chariot swinging low
The last hand caught in the last cookie jar
The last cowboy on the last frontier
The last bald eagle with nothing to fear
The last buffalo head nickel and the last buffalo
The first hippie heading for the hills
The last bohemian in a beret
The last true poet with something to say
The last Wobbly and the last Catholic Anarchist
The last living member of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade
The last Nazi
The last Mom and Pop grocery
The last firefly flickerng in the night

The first plane to hit the first Twin Tower
The last plane to hit the last Twin Tower
The only plane to ever hit the Pentagon
The birth of a vast national paranoia
The beginning of the Third World War
(the War Against the Third World)

The first trip abroad by an ignorant president
The last free-running river
The last gas and oil on earth
The last general strike
The last Fidelista the last Sandinista the last Zapatista
The next political prisoner
The last virgin and the last of the champagne
The last train to leave the station
The next Great Depression
The last will & testament
The last welfare check for rent
The end of the old New Deal
The insecurity of Homeland Security
The last independent newspaper
printing the news and raising hell
The last word and the last laugh and the Last Hurrah
The last picture show and the last waltz
The last Unknown Soldier
The last innocent American and the first Ugly American
The last Great Lover and the last New Yorker
The last home-fries with ketchup-to-go
The last train home at midnight
The last syllable of recorded time
The last long careless rapture
The last independent bookstore with its own mind
The last best hope of mankind
The lost chord and the lost leader
The last drop of likker
The cup that runneth over quicker
The last time I saw Paris Texas
The last peace treaty and the Last Supper
The first sweet signs of spring
The first sweet bird of youth
The first baby tooth and the last wisdom tooth
The last honest election
The last freedom of information
The last free Internet
The last free speech radio
The last unbought television network
The last homespun politician
The last Jeffersonian
The last Luddite in Berkeley
The last Bottom Line and the last of Social Security
The first fine evening calm and free
The beach at sunset with reclining nudes
the lovers wrapped in each other
The last meeting of the Board
The last gay sailor to come aboard
The first White Paper written in blood
The last citizen who bothered to vote
The first President picked by a Supreme Court
The end of the Time of Useful Consciousness
The unfinished flag of the United States
The ocean’s long withdrawing roar

The birth of a nation of sheep
The deep deep sleep of Middle America
The underground wave of feel-good fascism
The uneasy rule of the super-rich
The total triumph of imperial America
The final proof of our Manifest Destiny
The first loud cry of America über alles
Echoing in freedom’s alleys
The last lament for lost democracy
The total triumph of
totalitarian plutocracy


Cut down cut down cut down
Cut down the grassroots
Cut down those too wild weeds
in our great agri-fields and golf courses
Cut down cut down those wild sprouts
Cut down cut down those rank weeds
Pull down your vanity, man, pull down
the too wild buds the too wild shoots
Cut down the wild unruly vines & voices
the hardy volunteers and pioneers
Cut down cut down the alien corn
Cut down the crazy introverts
Tongue-tied lovers of the subjective
Cut down cut down the wild ones the wild spirits
The desert rats and monkey wrenchers
Easy riders and midnight cowboys in narco nirvanas
Cut down the wild alienated loners
Cut down cut down all those freaks and free thinkers
Wild-eyed poets with wandering minds
Soapbox agitators and curbstone philosophers
Far out weirdos and rappers
Stoned-out visionaries and peace-niks
Exiles in their own land!
O melting pot America!

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Lawrence Ferlinghetti – “Constantly Risking Absurdity” (1989)

August 2, 2008 at 4:01 pm (Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Poetry & Literature, The Beats)

Constantly risking absurdity
and death
whenever he performs
above the heads
of his audience
the poet like an acrobat
climbs on rime
to a high wire of his own making
and balancing on eyebeams
above a sea of faces
paces his way
to the other side of the day
performing entrachats
and sleight-of-foot tricks
and other high theatrics
and all without mistaking
any thing
for what it may not be
For he’s the super realist
who must perforce perceive
taut truth
before the taking of each stance or step
in his supposed advance
toward that still higher perch
where Beauty stands and waits
with gravity
to start her death-defying leap
And he
a little charleychaplin man
who may or may not catch
her fair eternal form
spreadeagled in the empty air
of existence.

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