Friday, February 26, 2021

rip lawrence ferlinghetti

I confess: I have been a fan of the IDEA of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and the Beat poets far more than of their actual work.  But on the occasion of the end of his very long and active life--the things he's seen!--combined with my participation in the February Poem Project hosted by Laura Shovan, I did some reading.

For the project, the theme of which is BODIES, I posted this for today:


Legendary Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti left us this week at the age of 101. He came to prefer the term “wide-open” rather than “Beat” poetry, because of the way it ranged and raged. One critic characterized Ferlinghetti’s work as “a revolutionary art of dissent and contemporary application which jointly drew a lyric poetry into new realms of social—and self-expression. It sparkles, sings, goes flat, and generates anger or love out of that flatness as it follows a basic motive of getting down to reality and making of it what we can.” 

 I invite you to enjoy Ferlinghetti’s “Underwear”, below and continued at the Poetry Foundation, and then to write about our "foundation garments," channeling Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s revolutionary art of dissent and contemporary application. [Underwear ads included as extra fodder.]











 I have not yet written my own foundation garment poem because during my explorations I found a fine and important poem called "I Am Waiting."  It is full, as the critic says, of Ferlinghetti's "sad and comic music of the streets." And then I saw that this poem was published IN 1958, in A CONEY ISLAND OF THE MIND, and somehow it sounds so current and live, and I am kind of stunned.

This is the fifth of six stanzas. The other five are worth your time!

I Am Waiting [excerpt] | Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I am waiting for the day

that maketh all things clear

and I am awaiting retribution

for what America did   

to Tom Sawyer   

and I am waiting

for Alice in Wonderland

to retransmit to me

her total dream of innocence

and I am waiting

for Childe Roland to come

to the final darkest tower

and I am waiting   

for Aphrodite

to grow live arms

at a final disarmament conference

in a new rebirth of wonder

Ferlinghetti preferred to call his poetry "wide-open" and now we see why.  Why can't Tom Sawyer and Alice in Wonderland and Childe Roland and Aphrodite meet on the same turf?  Oh, they can.  My, I feel educated today.  Thanks, Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

 Our host today is Karen at The Blog with the Shockingly Clever Title where she also is marveling, with Billy Collins, at the age of things. May we hang on to history, everything from Aphrodite to Cheerios to the Governor of Louisiana, and publish our howls. Friendly note:  I will probably not comment on PF posts this week so that I can do due diligence by the Feb Project responses. 


  1. I just happened to read a short piece about Ferlinghetti, who I didn't know about, and was astounded by his long life and what he managed to do having been actually orphaned twice, once as an infant, then again by his aunt when he was five. I love the poems you shared, the humor and the wonder the second left me with.

  2. Because of Ferlinghetti's passing, I've dug out my Coney Island book & am reminded of his looking so outward at the world, uncontained, but making us all think. It would have been nice to meet him I think. Thanks, Heidi, your prompt is bringing some super responses!

  3. I am picking up A CONEY ISLAND OF THE MIND at the library tomorrow. I am thinking about my undergarment poem to write.

  4. I don't know how I can call myself a poet and not know Ferlinghetti and I'm ashamed that it took his death to discover his work. I found that he wrote the underwear poem in the year of my birth, so I was ruminating about that in my journal. Not sure if it will come together as a response or not. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I have to admit to some major holes in my poetry knowledge and this poet...and Beat Poetry really...are biggies. The excerpt you shared. Wow. Yes, I feel educated knowing almost all the references there. And, 1958? It really does seem current. I wonder how I'd write this or some of our contemporary rockstars like Nye and Reynolds and even Collins? Thanks for the prompt and the prompting, Heidi.

  6. I'm with Linda and Margaret -- you have revealed a "major hole in my poetry knowledge." Luckily, more time to read and learn are just on the horizon!

  7. Phew! I'm so glad that I'm not alone in my ignorance! Thanks for sharing some more information and two excerpts from poems. I love all the allusions in that second one--though they leave me feeling a wee bit ignorant again. I'm a bit more sound on some of the references than others! I haven't quite found my way to a response yet, but hope to do so soon. Great prompt!

  8. I did not know much of the beat poets beyond a general term and time period, and had not read any of Ferlinghetti's works, but now I'm wanting more. I really enjoyed this, prompt, too!

  9. I can't believe Ferlinghetti was 101. My husband mentioned his death the other day and we both had thought, somehow, that he was already gone. I think the phrase "I am waiting" and the pondering of underwear are both fabulous prompts for future poems. :) :)

  10. Hi Heidi! Lawrence Ferlinghetti looks rather saintly in that photo at the top. Thanks for spotlighting him this week. I haven't featured beat/wide-open poets much, but there is this post:

  11. I confess, I remember hearing about his death last week, and was surprised he had been still alive! He was never one of my favorite poets, but he was a unique and important voice, nonetheless.

  12. Such a great introduction to Ferlinghetti!

  13. That 5th stanza by Ferlinghetti is fabulous, I can picture all of them together what a marvelous meeting of minds… thanks for sharing Heidi!

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Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!