Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Quips and Quotations (Conquer the Conquerors with Words Edition)

 


I am waiting for the Great Divide to be crossed   

and I am anxiously waiting

for the secret of eternal life to be discovered   

by an obscure general practitioner

and I am waiting

for the storms of life

to be over

and I am waiting

to set sail for happiness

and I am waiting

for a reconstructed Mayflower

to reach America

with its picture story and tv rights

sold in advance to the natives

and I am waiting

for the lost music to sound again

in the Lost Continent

in a new rebirth of wonder

--Lawrence Ferlinghetti


1919-2021


12 comments:

  1. I don't know him! Jeez I feel so uncultured! RIP

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Uncultured, Ananka? In the case of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, it would be more accurate to say you're unCOUNTERcultured. Ferlinghetti is generally considered to be a member, a very important member, of the 1950s Beat Generation literary movement (though Ferlinghetti himself eschewed the label, preferring to be thought of as just a poet.) It all gets very complicated, but the movement was basically divided between the New York City Beats (centered in Greenwich Village) and the West Coast Beats (centered in San Francisco) with some members (most notably, Allan Ginsberg) spending time in both camps. Here's where Ferlinghetti comes in. In addition to being a poet, he was a bookstore owner-publisher. City Lights (named after the Chaplin movie) specialized in non-mainstream literature and became a popular gathering place for San Francisco bohemians. The bookstore also doubled as a very modest publishing company. In 1956, it published Ginsberg's now-landmark book, Howl and Other Poems. As it turned out, it wasn't just a literary landmark but eventually a legal one as well. An undercover cop bought a copy, which led to Ferlinghetti being charged for disseminating obscenity, as Ginsberg's poem contained sexual references, both straight and gay. Ferlinghetti eventually beat the rap, a judge deciding the book had social value. To my knowledge, Ferlinghetti's own poems were never deemed obscene, but they were--heh, heh--popular anyway. His 1958 debut book of poetry, A Coney Island State of Mind, eventually sold many millions of copies. What I've posted is the fourth stanza of the sixth stanza poem "I Am Waiting", one of the better-known poems in that collection.

      But you don't necessarily need to know any of that, Ananka. And you don't have to be a beatnik or particularly cultured or anything. Just read the part of the poem I've posted. Did you like it? Did it pique your interest? Does it make you want to read the whole poem? Does it make you want to read something else by Ferlinghetti? That's all that really matters.

      Delete
  2. Replies
    1. Mitchell, I was about to do a post on Jackie Gleason when I heard of news of Ferlinghetti's passing. I've shelved it for now, but genius comes in many forms.

      Delete
  3. "Poets, come out of your closets, Open your windows, open your doors, You have been holed up too long in your closed worlds ... Poetry should transport the public / to higher places / than other wheels can carry it ..."

    "If you would be a poet, create works capable of answering the challenge of

    apocalyptic times, even if this meaning sounds apocalyptic.

    You are Whitman, you are Poe, you are Mark Twain, you are Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay, you are Neruda and Mayakovsky and Pasolini, you are an American or a non-American, you can conquer the conquerors with words. ..."

    — Lawrence Ferlinghetti

    Hi, Kirk!

    Another death in our family this year, the San Francisco based poet, artist, activist and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti who nearly made it to age 102. It was enlightening just now to do some reading on the side, delving into related topics such as The Beat Generation, comparative and modernist literature, existentialism, progressive politics, democratic socialism, Ferlinghetti's founding of City Lights and his arrest for publishing Allen Ginsberg's mid 50s poem Howl, which resulted in a lengthy First Amendment trial over disseminating allegedly obscene literature. I admire people like Ferlinghetti who break with tradition, shake up the establishment, take a stand and walk their talk. Thank you for paying tribute to him as we celebrate his life and mark his death.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Congratulations, Shady, you figured out where I got the title of the post. Your prize is an all-expense paid trip to Tangiers, as soon as that Nigerian prince who's always popping up in my spam folder pays me what he owes me.

      All kidding aside, Shady, I'm glad you liked this post. I'm going a bit outside of pop culture on this one (is there such a thing as pop counterculture?) and wasn't sure I'd get any comments. I, too, admire people like Ferlinghetti for breaking tradition, shaking up the establishment, etc. One day I may even be that way myself. But first I have to pay the rent.

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  4. He's going to be waiting for a while, then.

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    Replies
    1. Ferlinghetti lived to be a 101, Debra. That IS a long time to wait!

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  5. Hello Kirk, Ferlinghetti's poem is obviously ironic. We can set out ourselves to do all those thing, and it appears that Ferlinghetti did not miss any of them. Eternal life can refer to fame or doing good in the world, but in the biological sense, at 101 he didn't do badly either.
    --Jim

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    Replies
    1. He came closer than most people to eternity, huh, Jim? I actually was surprised at how old Ferlinghetti was, but shouldn't have been. Most of those 1950s beat writers were born in the 1920s or even earlier (William S. Burroughs, called Old Bull Lee in On the Road, was born in 1914) And it's now been a full century since the decade that arguably gave birth to modernism.

      Delete
  6. I have never heard of him...you always seem to educate me with every post.

    What a beautiful poem. May he Rest In Peace.

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    Replies
    1. JM, if you'd like to be educated further, here's the entire poem:

      https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/42869/i-am-waiting-56d22183d718a

      Delete

In order to keep the hucksters, humbugs, scoundrels, psychos, morons, and last but not least, artificial intelligentsia at bay, I have decided to turn on comment moderation. On the plus side, I've gotten rid of the word verification.