Lawrence Ferlinghetti Biography
(1920– ), Beatitude, Pictures from the Gone World, A Coney Island of the Mind
American poet, born in New York, educated at the University of North Carolina, Columbia University, and the Sorbonne. He was the fifth son of an Italian immigrant father and Portuguese mother; on his father's sudden death his mother went insane and was placed in an asylum. He was rescued from a New York orphanage by a relative, and taken to France for several years; after returning to America he was brought up by a family called Lawrence, from whom it appears he took his forename. A major figure in the Beat movement, with Peter D. Maring he founded the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco in 1952, the first allpaperback bookstore in America, and began to publish City Lights Books and the Pocket Poets Series, and a mimeographed magazine called Beatitude, to denote the beatific dimensions of Beat poetry. He published the work of Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and other young poets, and through his public readings and publication of poems as broadsides did much to create a wider audience for poetry in the 1950s and 1960s. His own first book of poems was Pictures from the Gone World (1953), followed by A Coney Island of the Mind (1958), Starting from San Francisco (1961; revised 1967), The Secret Meaning of Things (1969), Open Eye, Open Heart (1973), Landscapes of Living and Dying (1979), and Endless Life: The Selected Poems (1981). His other works include a novel, He- (1960), translations, political satire, and experimental plays. Ferlinghetti composes in the open verse free forms characteristic of Beat poetry, and his subjects reflect his belief in states of ecstasy available through the spiritual teachings of Zen Buddhism, and the compulsions of love. An equally powerful strain in his work reflects his political disenchantment with American imperialism, and the squalor of its domestic politics. See also San Francisco Renaissance and underground poetry.