Where are Whitman’s wild children,
where the great voices speaking out
with a sense of sweetness and sublimity,
where the great, new vision,
the great world-view,
the high prophetic song
of the immense earth
and all that sings in it
—Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Populist Manifesto
Glory in the pessimism of the intellect and the optimism of the will.
Generate collective joy in the face of collective doom.
Liberate have-nots and enrage despots.
Don’t put down the scholastics who say a poem should have wholeness, harmony, radiance, truth, beauty, goodness.
Stash your sell-phone and be here now.
Don’t ever believe poetry is irrelevant in dark times.
Dare to be a non-violent poetic guerrilla, an anti-hero.
Temper your most intemperate voice with compassion.
—Lawrence Ferlinghetti, selected lines from Poetry as Insurgent Art
This fall I invite you to join me in engaging the work and life of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, author of A Coney Island of the Mind (a million copies sold), publisher of world influential books (Allen Ginsberg’s Howl), owner of the Bay Area countercultural HQ, City Lights Books, a painter since the 1940s, and a translator (his translation of Jacques Prévert’s Paroles is a classic).
Ferlinghetti died earlier this year and I recalled first reading him with appreciation in the 1980s during the the Reagan administration (his selected poems collected in Endless Life). I later learned that he, too, had ventured to Nicaragua, target of Reagan’s terrorist wrath, like I and several friends from Louisville (Seven Days in Nicaragua Libre). I cheerfully purchased his paperbacks over the decades (published principally by New Directions) and always found new poems and perspectives to provoke and inspire me. I lived in Berkeley and Oakland in the 1990s and often visited North Beach to pop in at City Lights. Since 2015 I’ve done classes on poets such as Alice Walker, Diane di Prima, Allen Ginsberg, and Anne Waldman, and it’s high time I offer something on Ferlinghetti!
I propose eight weekly Zoom sessions beginning on Tuesday 21 September at 7 p.m. Central Time. Each session should go for at least 90 minutes, allowing time for reading, writing, and sharing. Following is some useful info—
- I strongly recommend you purchase LF’s Poetry as a Insurgent Art.
- During the class I encourage you to go to City Lights online and order any City Lights Publishers book that looks interesting to you. You could start by browsing the Pocket Poet Series.
- I may ask you to watch online (somehow) the 2009 documentary, Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder.
- We will do free writing inspired by Ferlinghetti poems during class sessions as well as during the week. So, you’ll need a journal (a Fabriano or an old-fashioned $2 composition notebook) or a device, as you like.
- I invite people to zero in on a creative cultural project you’d like to initiate during our class (or work on finishing one you have already started).
- Tuition is $125 and you can mail a check to me (4514 Chouteau Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63110) or use the following email at Paypal.
Let me know if you are interested:
Feel free to forward this to any of our mutual friends who may be intrigued.