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A Ferlinghetti of the Mind

From The Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti (books by this author), born in Yonkers, New York (1919). His father, an Italian immigrant, died before the boy was born and his mother was committed to an asylum while he was still an infant. A French aunt took over custody of young Lawrence and moved him to France. After a few years, they returned to New York, where his aunt got a job as a governess with a wealthy family. Then his aunt took off, abandoning her nephew, but the family liked the boy so much that they took him in.

Ferlinghetti had access to good schools, went to college at the University of North Carolina, and then joined the Navy during World War II, where he was the commander of 110-foot ship. He said: “Any smaller than us you weren’t a ship, you were a boat. But we could order anything a battleship could order so we got an entire set of the Modern Library. We had all the classics stacked everywhere all over the ship, including the john. We also got a lot of medicinal brandy the same way.”

After the war, he went to the Sorbonne, and then settled in San Francisco. He loved the North Beach neighborhood, full of Italian immigrants, and he decided to open a bookstore there. In 1953, he opened City Lights, a bookstore and publishing house, which made its name printing Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl.” Ferlinghetti did not publish his own book, A Coney Island of the Mind, but New Directions did in 1958, and it sold over a million copies.

Ferlinghetti wrote: “I have a feeling I’m falling / on rare occasions / but most of the time I have my feet on the ground / I can’t help it if the ground itself is falling.”

Comments

  1. Jonathan Webb says:

    He wanted to turn the Embarcadero Freeway into an outdoor restaurant.

    Thankfully, they demolished it instead.

    Thanks Pot Potter.

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