Picture of author.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919–2021)

Author of A Coney Island of the Mind

130+ Works 5,867 Members 95 Reviews 30 Favorited

About the Author

Lawrence Ferlinghetti was born Lawrence Monsanto Ferling in Yonkers, New York on March 24, 1919. He received a B. A. from the University of North Carolina, a M. A. from Columbia University, and a Ph.D from the Sorbonne. During World War II, he served in the U. S. Naval Reserve and was sent to show more Nagasaki shortly after it was bombed. In 1953, he and Peter Martin began to publish City Lights magazine. They also opened the City Lights Books Shop in San Francisco to help support the magazine. In 1955, they launched City Light Publishing, which became known as the heart of the "Beat" movement. Ferlinghetti is the author of more than thirty books of poetry including Time of Useful Consciousness, Poetry as Insurgent Art, How to Paint Sunlight, A Far Rockaway of the Heart, Over All the Obscene Boundaries: European Poems and Transitions, Who Are We Now?, The Secret Meaning of Things, and A Coney Island of the Mind. He is also the author of more than eight plays and of the novels Love in the Days of Rage and Her. He has translated the work of a number of poets including Nicanor Parra, Jacques Prevert, and Pier Paolo Pasolini. He received the lifetime achievement award from the National Book Critics Circle in 2000, the Frost Medal in 2003, and the Literarian Award in 2005, presented for "outstanding service to the American literary community." He was named the first poet laureate of San Francisco in 1998. He writes a weekly column for the San Francisco Chronicle. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Disambiguation Notice:

He was uncertain as to the year and place of his birth.


Works by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

A Coney Island of the Mind (1958) 1,850 copies
Pictures of the Gone World (1955) 309 copies
Starting from San Francisco (1961) 305 copies
Her (1960) 245 copies
Poetry as Insurgent Art (2007) 176 copies
The Secret Meaning of Things (1968) 175 copies
These Are My Rivers (1993) 163 copies
Love in the Days of Rage (1988) 139 copies
San Francisco Poems (2001) 132 copies
Little Boy (2019) 102 copies
Routines (1964) 99 copies
Americus, Book I (2004) 68 copies
Tyrannus Nix? (1969) 55 copies
open eye, open heart (1973) 53 copies
Who are we now? (1976) 45 copies
Back Roads to Far Places (1970) 40 copies
What Is Poetry? (2000) 38 copies
'Beat' Poets (1961) — Contributor — 24 copies
City Lights Journal Number Three (1966) — Editor — 23 copies
City Lights Anthology (1974) 22 copies
City Lights Journal Number Two (1964) — Editor — 13 copies
When I Look at Pictures (1990) 12 copies
Northwest ecolog (1978) 11 copies
Ends and Beginnings (City Lights Review No. 6) (1994) — Editor — 9 copies
Nine Dutch poets (1982) 8 copies
Poesie (2005) 7 copies
Inside the Trojan Horse (1987) 5 copies
Poesie Vecchie & Nuove (1998) 5 copies
The Beats (1963) 4 copies
At Sea 2 copies
¿Que es La Poesia? (2010) 2 copies
Storia dell`aeroplano (2008) 2 copies
Howl of the censor (1976) 2 copies
Meele lunapark (2020) 1 copy
Kücük Cocuk (2020) 1 copy
Scoppi urla risate (2019) 1 copy
Onun 1 copy
Hun 1 copy
Amant des gares (1990) 1 copy
Gedichte (1980) 1 copy
The Sea Within Us (2013) 1 copy
Americus: 1-4 (2009) 1 copy

Associated Works

The Portable Beat Reader (Viking Portable Library) (1992) — Contributor — 1,450 copies
The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems (2004) — Foreword — 788 copies
The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry (1999) — Contributor — 583 copies
Contemporary American Poetry (1962) — Contributor, some editions — 380 copies
The Portable Sixties Reader (2002) — Contributor — 319 copies
The New American Poetry 1945-1960 (1960) — Contributor — 313 copies
The Best American Poetry 1999 (1999) — Contributor — 208 copies
Emergency Kit (1996) — Contributor, some editions — 107 copies
Penguin Modern European Poets : Selections from Paroles (1965) — Translator, Introduction — 46 copies
Ferlinghetti portrait (1998) — Contributor — 24 copies
AQA Anthology (2002) — Author, some editions — 19 copies
Big Table 2 (1959) — Contributor — 10 copies
This Kind of Bird Flies Backward (1958) — Introduction, some editions — 7 copies
Big Table 3 (1959) — Contributor — 6 copies
4 Poets (1995) — Contributor — 4 copies
Peace or perish : a crisis anthology — Contributor — 3 copies
New Directions in Prose and Poetry 35 (1977) — Contributor — 3 copies
The Analog Sea Review: Number Four (2022) — Contributor — 2 copies
The Southern California Anthology: Volume XI (1993) — Contributor — 1 copy
The Best of American Poetry [Audio] (1997) — Contributor — 1 copy
San Francisco poets [sound recording] — Contributor — 1 copy
Free passage — Contributor — 1 copy
Beatitude 16 — Contributor — 1 copy


1960s (39) 20th century (156) 20th century literature (27) America (31) American (125) American literature (211) American poetry (119) anthology (477) beat (490) Beat Generation (255) beat literature (41) beat poetry (66) beatnik (21) City Lights (24) collection (46) drama (24) essays (65) Ferlinghetti (46) fiction (261) history (49) Lawrence Ferlinghetti (70) literature (227) New Directions (22) non-fiction (92) novel (28) own (34) paperback (34) plays (23) poems (46) poetry (2,530) poetry anthology (47) read (85) San Francisco (57) short stories (47) signed (39) Spanish (24) to-read (259) unread (43) urj (21) USA (63)

Common Knowledge



This New Directions paperback from 1958 brings together a selection of poems from Ferlinghetti's first, self-published collection Pictures of the gone world (1955) with two new, longer poems, "A Coney Island of the mind" and "Oral messages".

The title poem, "a kind of circus of the soul," in 29 sections, taking its title from a line of Henry Miller's — is something like the Ferlinghetti version of "Howl", a confrontation between the poet's sensibility and the banality of Eisenhower's America. But it's all a lot more playful and literary, full of mischievous echoes of everyone from Wordsworth, Keats and W B Yeats to T S Eliot and James Joyce. Where Ginsberg's lines thump out at you in a merciless rhythm, Ferlinghetti dances down the page in unexpected leaps and pirouettes. And comes to a fabulous conclusion in section 29 where he manages to condense Ulysses, Finnegan's Wake, Anna Karenina, Hemingway, Proust and Lorca (and much else) into about 100 breathlessly unpunctuated lines.

"Oral messages" are jazz poems, meant for live performance but still quite effective on the page, again full of clever puns and literary references that you would probably only pick up on a very subliminal level in performance. "Pictures of the gone world" range a little more widely, with a few nods to the lyrical tradition, but still in the light-footed style of "Coney Island".

The typographic design, with its classic underground "typewriter-style" look, is superb — I loved that they even went as far as using freehand underlining for emphasis instead of italics. Freda Browne is credited as the designer, while the cover is by Rudolphe de Harak.
… (more)
thorold | 30 other reviews | Dec 1, 2023 |
I wasn't familiar with the work of Lawrence Ferlinghetti until I read this title -- The Beat writers whose work I know the best are: Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs. Although, according to Wikipedia, Ferlinghetti did not consider himself to be a Beat poet -- The poems in this collection remind me of Kerouac's style (the poetic aspect of Kerouac's writing, that is). The poem, in this work, which blew my mind more than any other -- Was written when Ferlinghetti was circa 35-36 years old (Poem #2 on p. 78 of this edition, from "Pictures of the Gone World", 1955). It could be that Poem #2 came into being as a result of either intuition, instinct -- Or both (according to the "Encyclopedia of World Biography", Ferlinghetti's father, Carlo, died six months before L. Ferlinghetti's birth; L. Ferlinghetti's mother, Clemence, was then thrown into a downward spiral and eventually institutionalized). In any case, I was amazed by what I perceived to be Ferlinghetti's visceral understanding of mortality, in the way that he juxtaposed an image of the young, lighthearted and oblivious -- With that of the old and decrepit, in Poem #2. Despite my being a person who's not usually interested in poetry -- I was impressed with this collection. And so I'll end with the text of Poem #2 from p. 78 of this edition -- As it had such a profound effect on me (the text is left-justified below i.e. not formatted in the way that Ferlinghetti did in this book).

just as I used to say
love comes harder to the aged
because they've been running
on the same old rails too long
and then when the sly switch comes along
they miss the turn
and burn up the wrong rail while
the gay caboose goes flying
and the steam engine driver don't recognize
them new electric horns
and the aged run out on the rusty spur
which ends up in
the dead grass where
the rusty tin cans and bedsprings and old razor
blades and moldy mattresses
and the rail breaks off dead
right there
though the ties go on a while
and the aged
say to themselves
this must be the place
we were supposed to lie down
and they do
while the bright saloon careens along away
on a high
its windows full of bluesky and lovers
with flowers
their long hair streaming
and all of them laughing
and waving and
whispering to each other
and looking out and
wondering what that graveyard
where the rails end
… (more)
stephencbird | 30 other reviews | Sep 19, 2023 |
In notes at the end of the book Ferlinghetti describes the second volume of Americus as:

"A fragmented recording of the American stream-of-consciousness, in the tradition of William Carlos Williams’ Paterson, Charles Olson’s Maximus, Allen Ginsberg’s Fall of America, and Ed Sanders’ America: a History in Verse.

‘Time of Useful Consciousness,’ an aeronautical term denoting the time between when one loses oxygen and when one passes out, the brief time in which some lifesaving action is possible. …

Certain separate poems previously published are here given a context."

The poems start in New York and sweep westward with the expanding nation. There are significant stops in the Mississippi River Valley, Chicago, Las Vegas, and San Francisco before returning in the end to Brooklyn where the author yearns for Walt Whitman to say some words of comfort as the “Optimist of humanity en masse.”

As with the first volume, Ferlinghetti alludes to or quotes directly from other poets and songwriters, especially his fellow twentieth century bohemian cohorts. This time there are no footnotes that cite these lines. Literary aficionados start researching!
… (more)
MaowangVater | 1 other review | Aug 17, 2023 |
Americus is a rush of somethings old, somethings new, and much that is borrowed that’s melancholy and horrifically true. Ferlinghetti’s poetic fugue is told in the rhythm of his musings on America and Europe through the twentieth century in a rapid rush of verbiage that is musical. But unlike a mental fugue state he remembers everything. It’s ecstatic, punctuated by the horrors of war and the wonders and contractions of life. Starting with a quote from T. S. Eliot the poem is stuffed full of allusions and quotes from authors as various as Victor Hugo and Ezra Pound, song lyrics from George M. Cohan and Tuli Kuperberg, and phrases in French, German, and Italian, all of which Ferlinghetti scrupulously footnotes at the end of the book.

It’s a bravo performance by a master poet.
… (more)
MaowangVater | 1 other review | Aug 8, 2023 |



You May Also Like

Associated Authors

Allen Ginsberg Contributor
Gregory Corso Contributor
Jack Kerouac Contributor
Kenneth Rexroth Translator
Gary Snyder Contributor
Paul Carroll Contributor
Jonathan Williams Contributor
John Wieners Contributor
Philip Whalen Contributor
Ron Loewinsohn Contributor
Le Roi Jones Contributor
Edward Dorn Contributor
Michael McClure Contributor
Nicanor Parra Contributor
Peter Orlovsky Contributor
Harold Norse Contributor
Robert Nichols Contributor
Pablo Neruda Contributor
Rosario Murillo Contributor
Anthony Molino Translator
David Meltzer Contributor
Antonio Machado Contributor
Malcolm Lowry Contributor
Barbara Paschke Translator
Charles Upton Contributor
Kenneth Patchen Contributor
Pete Winslow Contributor
Anne Waldman Contributor
Andrei Voznesensky Contributor
Simon Vinkenoog Contributor
Philip Lamantia Contributor
Pablo Picasso Contributor
Jacques Prévert Contributor
Antonio Porta Contributor
Marie Ponsot Contributor
Janine Pommy-Vega Contributor
Heinz Piontek Contributor
Denise Levertov Contributor
Nicolas Guillén Contributor
La Loca Contributor
Stefan Brecht Contributor
Adam Cornford Contributor
Jonathan Cohen Translator
Ann Charters Contributor
Paul Celan Contributor
Ernesto Cardenal Contributor
Dino Campana Contributor
Robert Bly Contributor
Semyon Kirsanov Contributor
Alberto Blanco Contributor
Paul Blackburn Translator
Earle Birney contibuting editor
Antler Contributor
Rafael Alberti Contributor
Juvenal Acosta contibuting editor
Julio Cortázar Contributor
Kamau Daáood Contributor
Diane di Prima Contributor
Günter Grass Contributor
Bob Kaufman Contributor
Anselm Hollo Translator
Jack Hirschman Contributor
Walter Höllerer Contributor
Daisy Zamora Contributor
Jorge Elliot Translator
Robert Duncan Contributor
Roger Mayne Cover designer


Also by

Charts & Graphs