Lawrence Ferlinghetti, (March 24, 1919 – February 23, 2021), was an American poet. He was a social activist on personal level and contributed a large cannon in as wide fields as poetry, fiction, theatre, arts, films among others. Although he himself was a Beat poet and published several Beat poets from his own publication house City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, he refuted to be considered as a Beat poet.
He wrote several collections of poetry but his first one titled A Coney Island of the Mind (1958) is the most popular. This collection sold over 1 million copies across the world and has been translated into 9 languages. His other popular books are A Far Rockaway of the Heart (1997), How to Paint Sunlight (2001), and Americus Book I (2004).
Lawrence Ferlinghetti was a painter-poet.– Khurshid Alam, Editor-in-Chief, Contemporary Literary Review India
Most of his poems reflect the themes of T. S. Eliot, however, critics opine that he employed visual aspects in his poems more. His language was full of visual sketches, as if the characters appear walking in front of the readers.
In Golden Gate Park that Day
In Golden Gate Park that day
a man and his wife were coming along …
He was wearing green suspenders …
while his wife was carrying a bunch of grapes.”
For Ferlinghetti’s first poem titled A Coney Island of the Mind, Jack Foley says: “In Goya’s Greatest Scenes, We Seem To See.”
Moreover, Ferlinghetti is known for breaking away from the conventional writing and was more concerned with political and social life of the people. He promoted freedom of expression and published many writers including Allen Ginsberg’s Howl & Other Poems (1956). This created much criticism from the government and was arrested on the charges of obscenity. However, most of the chief writers and artists of the time supported Ferlinghetti, because of which he was freed.
He painted for more than 50 years and his paintings were displayed at various galleries in America and across the world including the Butler Museum (US) and Il Palazzo delle Esposizioni (Rome).
He has been bestowed with several awards such as the Los Angeles Times’ Robert Kirsch Award, the BABRA Award for Lifetime Achievement, the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Award for Contribution to American Arts and Letters, the American Civil Liberties Union’s Earl Warren Civil Liberties Award among others.