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Close up of Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Hear Lawrence Ferlinghetti Recite His Fantastic Poems


The last living member of the Beat generation reads some of his best poems aloud.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti is 96 years old and lives in San Francisco –– the city where he founded the famous bookstore and publishing house City Lights, which published his friends and fellow adventurers like Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”, at that golden time of American poetry known today as the San Francisco School or the Beat Generation. It was precisely the publication of “Howl” in 1956 which brought the writers of the Beat movement to prominence with the rest of the country, as Ferlinghetti was arrested shortly afterwards on charges of obscenity. The trial that followed attracted still more attention to them and the case was a cornerstone of the First Amendment, establishing a legal precedent for the publication of controversial works of social importance.

Beyond being the last survivor of the beatnicks, a key literary figure in the legal establishment of the First Amendment, and having molded the very figure of the poet in the world (redeeming it from the ivory towers of academia and offering it, through his bookstore, as an experience to be shared with ordinary people), Ferlinghetti is also a great poet. He created a poetic form that is both delightfully rhetorical and socially vital and whiles themes of anarchy and massive corruption remain believable, it’s still the surrealism and wonder of the world that rises over all. Suffice it to read his anthology, A Coney Island of the Mind.

The poet has recorded many of his best poems (which can be purchased here), and of these, we share a few which are highly recommended for a morning or afternoon when music and humor are required. Enjoy.

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