Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919-2021), bestselling poet, founder of City Lights Books and publisher of Allen Ginsberg | obituary

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, one of the defining names for beat culture, bestselling author and poet, editor of Allen Ginsberg’s (Howl) Howl, the publication of which brought him to court in 1953, painter and founder of City Lights Books, died at the age of 101, on February 22nd, at his home in San Francisco, USA. The cause was interstitial lung disease, said his son Lorenzo.

When Lawrence Ferlinghetti turned 100 on March 24, 2019, he published the novel Little Boy in the USA, published in Portugal by Quetzal as Rapazinho and in which he worked for two decades. His memories also go through there. “Rapazinho is the ultimate testimony and literary testament of the greatest poet of the Beat generation – part autobiography, part scattered memories, part flow of language and feeling and always with the magical tone of Ferlinghetti’s writing. There are biographical memories in the book that are intertwined with explosions of energy and memory, reflections, memories and prophecies about what we can expect from life in the future. Rapazinho is a source of literary knowledge with allusions to the world and the literary life of the author, his generation, mistakes and discoveries – and an invitation to be amazed ”, wrote the Portuguese publisher at its introduction.

He was editor of Allen Ginsberg, who in October 1955 heard the first public reading of the poem Howl / Howl at the Six Gallery in San Francisco, but also by Charles Bukowski, Paul Bowles and Sam Shepard. Never considering himself a beat writer or caring much about this literature, Elaine Woo writes in the Los Angeles Times obituary, noting that the editor of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road manuscripts (Pela Estada Fora, in Portuguese translation) or disapproved Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs. But Jesse McKinley calls him “the spiritual godfather of the beat movement” in the New York Times obituary.

He was the fifth child of some Italian, French, and Portuguese descendants, but by the time he was born in 1919 his Italian father, Carlo Ferlinghetti, had already died. His mother, Clemence Albertine Mendes-Monsanto, was later hospitalized with a nervous breakdown. Lawrence Monsanto was two years old to live with Uncle Ludovic Monsanto and his wife Emily, who brought the child to France when he later separated from their husband. They lived there for four years, reading the Los Angeles Times obituary, and when they returned to New York, Ferlinghetti spent some time in an orphanage before living with Emily at the Bisland family home in Bronxville. It was this family that raised him and made him passionate about books.

He studied journalism and later English literature. Participation in World War II made him a pacifist who was arrested in 1967 for protesting the Vietnam War. He received his PhD from the Sorbonne in Paris in 1950, and in that city Lawrence Ferlinghetti was a regular at the Shakespeare and Company bookstore founded by George Whitman, along with Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Gregory Corso.

In 2011 the poet Nuno Júdice reminded the PUBLIC of a few moments when he met Ferlinghetti, the author of the poetry book A Coney Island of the Mind (1958), which was written to accompany jazz music and has become one of the best-selling poetry books in the United States It had its first Portuguese translation in 1972 entitled Como Eu Costumava Dizer in D. Quijote’s Poetry Notebooks.

It was the bohemian spirit who lived in the Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris that he wanted to recreate in the City Lights Books bookstore, which he founded in California in 1953, with Peter D. Martin, who launched the Project a year later. It was the first bookstore in the country to only sell paperback books, improving the pocket size and high quality books at an affordable price. It was also known for staying open until the wee hours of the morning and for not bothering anyone reading a book without buying it. It was also known for selling LGBT literature. At the front door, the Los Angeles Times says, there was a warning to customers to leave despair outside: “Leave despair, you who are entering”. When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, they closed their bookstore in protest.

In 1955, Lawrence Ferlinghetti founded City Lights, which began publishing the Pocket Poets Series, which opened with a book by him, Pictures of the Gone World. But it was the publication of the fourth book in this collection, Howl & Other Poems, by Allen Ginsberg in 1956, translated into Portuguese by O Uivo e Outros Poemas, that arrested him for selling “obscene material” and on defense went to court for freedom of expression and the first amendment manage to set a precedent.

The Relógio D’Água publishing house published his essay A Poesia As Arte Insurgente in 2016, the original title of which is Poetry as insurgente art. In it he wrote passages like this: “If you consider yourself a poet, you are not sitting there. Poetry is not a sedentary occupation, it is not an exercise to sit down, please. Get up and tell them what you think. “

At that time, while promoting the book, Relógio D’Água recalled what Larry Smith wrote in the book Lawrence Ferlinghetti: Poet-at-Large: “What follows from the historical panorama in which Ferlinghetti was involved is experimenting a committed social pattern of literature ”, adding that Ferlinghetti’s role was far superior to that of editor and organizer:“ In addition to shaping the idea of ​​what it means to be a poet in the world, he created a poetic form that both rhetorically functional and socially is vital. “

In 2010 Rob Epstein’s film Howl was made, in which the actor Andrew Rogers plays Ferlinghetti and is James Franco Allen Ginsberg.