Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I put my cap in the cage
and went out with the bird on my head…

twentyeightLawrence Ferlinghetti in City Lights/San Francisco 1965. Photograph by Larry Keenan.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti is a beat poet, artist and owner/publisher of City Lights Books (the first soft cover book store in the US). He was the first Poet Laureate of San Francisco. This photograph was taken in the basement of City Lights.

Ferlinghetti told Keenan that City Lights used to be a Holy Roller church and that he had left up the Biblical tracts on the walls.

Born: March 24, 1919, in Yonkers, NY

Ferlinghetti, who helped found the City Lights bookstore and magazine, began writing poetry at age 16 and attended the University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill. Later, he moved to Paris, where he earned a doctoral degree in poetry from Sorbonne . Upon moving back to the U.S., he wound up in San Francisco and opened City Lights. He found his way into the beats in this manner, and owned a cabin in Big Sur, from which Kerouac’s book with the namesake was based. He was also the first (along with his partner Shig Murao, who sadly passed away in late 1999) to publish Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl.” Ferlinghetti was honored as San Francisco’s first poet laureate. He has also spoken out against Internet censorship.

Ferlinghetti has written and published many volumes and series, beginning with his “Pocket Poet” series. His best-known books are A Coney Island of the Mind, A Far Rockaway of the Heart, These Are My Rivers, and Pictures of the Gone World. He currently writes a monthly column at the San Francisco Chronicle (click “Books” to get to his column).

Lawrence Ferlinghetti was known in Kerouac’s books as Larry O’Hara in Subterraneans, Lorenzo Monsanto in Big Sur, and Danny Richman in Book of Dreams and Visions of Cody. Wait, I’ve been corrected! So Larry O’Hara and Danny Richman were really based on Jerry Newman, a musician friend of Kerouac’s. Kerouac didn’t meet Ferlinghetti until after he wrote these books. Thanks to Kerouac scholar Dave Moore. (The previous info was based on a biography by Gifford and Lee.)

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