A Visit From the Smiling Mortician
February 23, 2021 11:40 AM   Subscribe

Lawrence Ferlinghetti died last night, age 101.

More information available at the websites of City Lights Books and the San Francisco Chronicle. The full text of The World is a Beautiful Place, from which the title is taken, is here.
posted by ALeaflikeStructure (73 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
Damn. Almost made it to his birthday. End of an era.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:43 AM on February 23 [4 favorites]


An astounding writer and advocate. The last of giants.

I would highly, highly recommend his recent and only novel, Little Boy. It starts off as a straightforward-ish memoir, but before long, he can't help himself, and he ignites a wildfire of Beat poetry that just goes on and on and on and on and carries you with him. The book is an easy equal of anything his compatriots ever did.

Godspeed, sir.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:55 AM on February 23 [5 favorites]


If you would be a poet, create works capable of answering the challenge of apocalyptic times, even if this meaning sounds apocalyptic.
Weird, wild, and now: mourned.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:58 AM on February 23 [3 favorites]


A dot seems too serious and also not serious enough.

🐕
posted by eotvos at 12:06 PM on February 23 [12 favorites]


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posted by wicked_sassy at 12:09 PM on February 23


City Lights will always be mecca for me when I point my ship SF-ward.

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posted by ikahime at 12:20 PM on February 23 [5 favorites]


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posted by Going To Maine at 12:25 PM on February 23


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posted by Gelatin at 12:26 PM on February 23


I had the great good fortune in the summers of 2018 and 2019 to travel to San Francisco and visit City Lights. The first time, I spent an hour in the second floor poetry room, browsing the titles and looking at the photos, just absorbing the feel of the room where so much magic was created. What a miraculous place! Rest well, Mr. Ferlinghetti.
posted by JohnFromGR at 12:26 PM on February 23 [3 favorites]


Every trip to SF required a full-day spent reading among the books of City Lights. My friends would ask where I'd disappeared to, that was it. A life well-lived: 101 is a fair enough age. I'm not sure if we could have asked to wring more out of him, though he'll be missed.
posted by rubatan at 12:26 PM on February 23 [6 favorites]


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May his memory be for a blessing.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 12:29 PM on February 23 [1 favorite]


Going to City Lights was part of a trimuverate ritual I would have whenever I landed in San Francisco. Included was a coffee at Cafe Trieste, focaccia bread from Liguria Bakery, salami from Molinari's. There was always a feeling sanctuary whenever I visited. It's worth a pilgrimage for anyone making their break from society.

And I was thinking of Lenore Kandel today and how it's time to get back on the horse and write erotic poetry again.

A true giant indeed...
posted by goalyeehah at 12:32 PM on February 23 [7 favorites]


Mefites, if there are any San Francisco, Los Angeles or Zoom celebrations going in his memory, please post.
posted by goalyeehah at 12:35 PM on February 23 [5 favorites]


In my old office, back when I was my own boss, I had a signed copy of this poem on my wall. A nice bit of subversion for my clients to read while I left the room to go make a photocopy or two.

I was never questioned about it, but often enough there were some quizzical looks for me when I returned. Now it hangs on my dining room wall, where I glance at it, and receive something new each time.

Thank you, sir.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:36 PM on February 23 [13 favorites]


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posted by Cezar Golescu at 12:36 PM on February 23


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posted by doctornemo at 12:44 PM on February 23


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posted by evilDoug at 12:45 PM on February 23


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posted by mumimor at 12:48 PM on February 23


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posted by niicholas at 12:49 PM on February 23


Only got to San Francisco once. Cut short a meeting to go to City Lights. It was certainly the right thing to do.
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posted by adamvasco at 12:50 PM on February 23 [9 favorites]


A friend just posted this....

Just got the news that Lawrence Ferlinghetti passed away in his sleep about 5am. Without Ferlinghetti, I wouldn't know any of you, I wouldn't know Lorraine. Without Ferlinghetti hearing Ginsberg read Howl, there is no trial, no Beat Generation. He was the key to the door. Flights of beatific angels...
posted by goalyeehah at 12:51 PM on February 23 [10 favorites]


He was one of the first poets whose works expanded my notion of what poetry looked like, talked about...

On a bored afternoon, I found my dad's copy of an abridged Norton Anthology of Poetry and browsed a bit, landing on "In Goya’s Greatest Scenes We Seem to See . . ." for two reasons. One, how its lined ranged about the page. I liked that. Two, I'd been surrounded by images from Goya most of my childhood. My parents lived in Rota, Spain until about a year after I was born; when they returned to the US, they brought back a large book of Goya's paintings and prints, as well as several prints on canvas. (None of the really scary ones.)

Ferlinghetti gave me a new way to understand those works, and indeed the work of so many artists. That capture of a moment that later, in other places, surfaces again, and again. The long cycles of grief and strife, of cruelty and reaction, of doubt and pain, and sometimes of beauty. I couldn't articulate it that way, of course, but as I returned to the poem and his other writings over the next few years, that bridge became more clear.

It's funny - at the time (I was about thirteen), I thought, well, this isn't the Shel Silverstein I used to read. (I didn't see the hard kernels in his work until much later.) I felt very grown up.

To make something accessible and challenging and worth returning to...that's great work.

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posted by Caxton1476 at 12:57 PM on February 23 [10 favorites]


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posted by ZeusHumms at 12:59 PM on February 23


City Lights is a bedrock of culture in San Francisco. I’ve been going there since the mid 70’s and every visit was a new discovery. Ferlinghetti created a wonderful place, a truly great selection of books, unforgettable author events, and an eternal surrealism section across from the cash register.

📚
posted by njohnson23 at 1:09 PM on February 23 [2 favorites]


goalyeehah, your friend's "He was the key to the door" is perfect, thank you.

Damn.

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posted by faineant at 1:17 PM on February 23 [2 favorites]


"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"

From, Coney Island of the Mind.
posted by clavdivs at 1:18 PM on February 23 [18 favorites]


City Lights is a gem and one of the few San Francisco bookstores to survive the Amazon era. (I will always hate Amazon for destroying bookstores.)

He can hang out with his old poet friends now.

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posted by shoesietart at 1:22 PM on February 23 [1 favorite]


He did a CD reading of A Coney Island Of The Mind several years ago and a friend took my copy to SF and got it signed for me.

A giant in our culture in ways a lot don't realize. I'm glad I was alive while he was around.

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posted by hippybear at 1:35 PM on February 23 [6 favorites]


SO this leaves who from that era standing? Gary Snyder is who, age 91.
posted by thelonius at 1:44 PM on February 23


When Ferlinghetti dies, the Beat Generation will be gone. From the poet's chair I see a photo with Corso's impudent face, another with Kerouac and Neal Cassady, I think about Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Bob Kaufman. With Lawrence Ferlinghetti's last breath, San Francisco will become a different city.

From San Francisco: A Map of Perceptions
posted by vacapinta at 1:48 PM on February 23 [3 favorites]


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posted by exlotuseater at 1:48 PM on February 23


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posted by May Kasahara at 1:51 PM on February 23


I saw Ferlinghetti read in Milwaukee in the late 80s. He was funny and charming and gave a really good reading, although I remember that the ballroom chairs were really uncomfortable. I stopped doing poetry. It long after, but I kept his books (and a few others).

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and I am waiting
perpetually and forever
a renaissance of wonder
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:56 PM on February 23 [4 favorites]


8 poems
from Coney Island of the Mind
posted by y2karl at 2:07 PM on February 23 [2 favorites]


I saw him read in New York, in Central Park, at some point in the late 80s. I was very young, although I did not think so then, and I thought, wow, he's so old, this is like living history, the Beats, they were so cool and long ago. And now it is more than 30 years later and he is gone and I have realized that that was not so long ago.
posted by mygothlaundry at 2:08 PM on February 23 [11 favorites]


It's sad to lose someone lik him, but... man, what a life!

Well lived, sir.

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posted by dfm500 at 2:08 PM on February 23 [1 favorite]


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posted by Mutant Lobsters from Riverhead at 2:10 PM on February 23


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posted by nikoniko at 2:15 PM on February 23


The Beat goes on...

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posted by jim in austin at 2:16 PM on February 23 [1 favorite]


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posted by Ten Cold Hot Dogs at 2:16 PM on February 23


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posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:17 PM on February 23


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posted by oulipian at 2:30 PM on February 23


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posted by ubiquity at 2:36 PM on February 23


I still own a copy of A Coney Island of the Mind and it earns its acclaim.

Even so, after we have a moment of silence for Ferlinghetti himself, we might consider having one for all of the women whose dudes will (badly) quote him and mansplain about him tonight because holy shit does a certain kind of dude glom on to ol' Lawrence.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:44 PM on February 23 [7 favorites]


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posted by JoeXIII007 at 2:51 PM on February 23


A bummer, but not as huge of one as it could be, what with 101 years and the City Lights legacy and all.

I never read Ferlinghetti except in passing, but without the work he did, I would not be who I am today. Thanks, man.
posted by heteronym at 2:51 PM on February 23 [3 favorites]


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I was fortunate to tech a few events around him and to understand I was fortunate.

SO this leaves who from that era standing? Gary Snyder is who, age 91.
posted by thelonius


ruth weiss passed last year, but Anne Waldman is still full of beans.
posted by richeditor at 2:53 PM on February 23 [7 favorites]


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posted by acb at 3:01 PM on February 23


I was a bookseller for a time, and visiting City Lights was a pilgrimage that did not disappoint. I am in awe of his commitment to poetry, writing, culture, books. He did a lot with his 101 years. We are richer for his having lived, and poorer for his passing.

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posted by theora55 at 3:20 PM on February 23 [7 favorites]


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posted by Token Meme at 3:27 PM on February 23


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The focus of the Howl movie should have been on him rather than Ginsberg
posted by brujita at 4:20 PM on February 23 [3 favorites]


I’m told that I recited a big chunk of Howl in the back of an ambulance while coming out of hypoglycemic shock. I can only remember a few lines while conscious.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:24 PM on February 23 [6 favorites]


There's a sparkling gold quality to my memories of City Lights, like a jewel box. In retrospect, I don't think anything felt more San Francisco to me when I first moved to the Bay Area. There were years where all I'd ask for birthdays or holidays were City Lights gift certificates. Money was pretty tight for me back then, and there was nothing like the feeling of being unleashed in that store, able to buy more than I could have possibly afforded on my own. And then taking the books to a nearby bar or coffee shop like Specs' or Vesuvio and thumbing through the treasures I'd found. Some of my happiest memories of this or any other city. Thank you, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, for that corner of San Francisco where it still felt possible to dream.

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posted by treepour at 4:24 PM on February 23 [4 favorites]


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posted by Mister Bijou at 4:49 PM on February 23


I've only been to SF 2-3 times in my life, but City Lights is where I bought my copy of Actual Air and discovered that the chorus to Jens Lenkman's "You Are The Light" is adapted from a David Berman poem.

Nice to be reminded of how the store was a Light by which innumerable people in this thread and beyond have traveled into this and that.
posted by sy at 5:24 PM on February 23 [3 favorites]


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posted by valetta at 5:39 PM on February 23


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posted by condour75 at 5:45 PM on February 23


Wow... I just biked home from downtown and swung my route to pass by City Lights for the heck of it. I went to the book shop on my first visit to the City in 2005. I'm one week to the day from the end of my time living in San Francisco. Remarkable.

With Lawrence Ferlinghetti's last breath, San Francisco will become a different city.

That wave has been building for so long that it's possible its crest is already in the past. It's hard to tell in the frothy mess we've got right now. No matter, this is still a bit like closing a loop that's been hanging on and struggling in little corners for ages.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 7:11 PM on February 23 [3 favorites]


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posted by pt68 at 8:19 PM on February 23


Today I lost Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and with him, a connection to the Beat generation, which was so important to me. Last week, I lost an artist friend who was friends with Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning (and little old me), and another tendon had been sliced. Where do I stand now? It’s all emptiness before me, and I’m not sure I’m able to face it on my own.
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:24 PM on February 23 [5 favorites]


His prescient poem, written in 2007

"PITY THE NATION"
(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 conquerers
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!
posted by eye of newt at 10:33 PM on February 23 [9 favorites]




Dang! As a mid-teen in the late 60s, I re-invented myself to develop "a fine cursive hand". A Summer job brought discretionary income, some of which was lashed out on Penguin Modern Poets #5 [Corso, Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg] - I copied out, between a bit of Landor and a bit of Wordsworth, with nothing from Corso or Ginsberg ; Dove sta amore and Sometime during eternity :
Him just hang there
                                       on His Tree
          looking real Petered out
                                          and real cool
                                                             and also
                   according to a roundup
                                                    of late world news   
             from the usual unreliable sources
                                                               real dead
posted by BobTheScientist at 1:21 AM on February 24 [4 favorites]


📚.
posted by adekllny at 6:46 AM on February 24


Oh you gatherer
of the fine ash of poetry
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posted by fregoli at 7:13 AM on February 24 [2 favorites]


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posted by brundlefly at 8:13 AM on February 24


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posted by kozad at 8:56 AM on February 24


this just showed up on my Facebook c/o a San Francisco based musician friend:

If you really sit with it, and give it a bit of a chew, it is very difficult to discern exactly how much of the current collective mind does not owe itself to Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Environmental consciousness, art as a radical act, the melding of jazz and poetry, Western spirituality wuwu, so much of what we use to orient yourselves, I think at some point went through his being. Thanks buddy
posted by philip-random at 9:09 AM on February 24 [2 favorites]


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posted by ahimsakid at 10:28 AM on February 24


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posted by the sobsister at 1:50 PM on February 24


16-year-old girl (me) in Lubbock Tx standing in a short-lived non-textbook bookstore holding/reading A Coney Island of the Mind thrilled, changed.
posted by dragonian at 4:13 PM on February 24 [4 favorites]


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posted by Standard Orange at 4:29 PM on February 24


He was born during the Spanish Influenza epidemic, and died during the Covid epidemic. Most everything that governs how we think and feel and live today took shape during that time, and he was one of those people who did the shaping. What an amazing life he had. A damn good poet, too.

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posted by Kattullus at 1:28 PM on February 25 [7 favorites]


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