Lawrence Ferlinghetti @90

Lawrence Ferlinghetti @90

A Coney Island of the Mind by you.

A Coney Island of the Mind (1958)

Lawrence Ferlinghetti (born Lawrence Ferling on March 24, 1919) is an American poet, painter, Liberal, and the co-founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers. Author of poetry, translations, fiction, theatre, art criticism, and film narration, he is best known for A Coney Island of the Mind.

A Coney Island of the Mind is a collection of poetry by Lawrence Ferlinghetti originally published in 1958 and dedicated to Carl Solomon. It contains some of Ferlinghetti’s most famous poems, such as I am Waiting, and Junkman’s Obbligato, which were created for jazz accompaniment (see jazz poetry). There are approximately a million copies in print of A Coney Island, and the book has been translated into over a dozen languages. It remains one of the best-selling and most popular books of poetry ever published.

Coney Island was written in the conservative post-war 1950s, and his poetry resonates with a joyful anti-establishment fervor.

Carl Solomon (1928-1993) was an American writer, artist and criminal. He was friend of Allen Ginsberg and an important inspiration for Ginsberg’s “Howl” (full title: “Howl for Carl Solomon.”). Ginsberg had met Solomon in the mental institution of Bellevue Hospital Center and became friends with him. Outside of being a member of the The Times Square Underworld, Solomon was a Dada and Surrealism enthusiast (he introduced Ginsberg to Artaud) who suffered bouts of depression.

Solomon wanted to commit suicide, but he thought a form of suicide appropriate to dadaism would be to go to a mental institution and demand a lobotomy. The institution refused, giving him many forms of therapy, including electroshock therapy. Much of the final section of the first part of “Howl” is a description of this.

Ginsberg admitted later this sympathy for Solomon was connected to bottled up guilt and sympathy for his mother’s condition (she suffered from schizophrenia and had been lobotomized), an issue he was not yet ready to address directly.

Although in style and theme Ferlinghetti’s  writing is very unlike that of the original New York based Beat circle, he had important associations with the Beat writers, who made City Lights Bookstore their headquarters when they were in San Francisco. He has often claimed that he was not a Beat, but a bohemian of an earlier generation. Over the years Ferlinghetti published work by most of the Beats, most notably Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William S. Burroughs. He was Ginsberg’s publisher for over thirty years.

3 thoughts on “Lawrence Ferlinghetti @90

  1. Norman Savage

    “A Coney Isand of the Mind,” was the first book I ever stole. “In Goya’s greatest scenes”… I was born and raised in Coney Island and one day, when cutting high school we went into Greenwich Village where I found “Howl” on a rack with other City Lights books and, on a shelf, nearby, “A Coney Island”… I was writing poetry by then, but when I found Ginsberg’s confessionalism it turned a corner for me. Later, when at The New School, also in Greenwich Village, Ginsberg became my mentor and friend. I was introduced to him through a terrific poet, Paul Blackburn, who read my stuff and saw the similarities; my degree from The New School was based on submitting a poetry manuscript. I met him in 1967 and we were pretty good friends up until his death. He me Carl Solomon, though, at Rockland State, not Bellevue.
    My memoir, JUNK SICK: CONFESSIONS OF AN UNCONTROLLED DIABETIC, published by Smashwords, contains a bit of Allen and others that you’ve probably read or listened to through the years. The old bohemia of Greenwich Village, where I still live, has unfortunately been lost. The Cedar Tavern where Allen and I met many times is now closed, one of the owners, a friend of mine for forty years, is dead, and other friends are scattered to the four corners. It’s heartening to have stumbled upon your blog and find that great shit is great no matter what generation it finds itself within.
    Norman Savage

  2. Norman Savage

    Thanks, man, for making the page for me. Stumbling over your blog jarred some memories for me–not that I need much help. But Larry and Allen, especially Allen have a place in my heart, my rhythm. I think it was Seymour Krim who came up with, “The Beat Generation,” for an article he did at the time and it stuck. And later, Steve Allen, a hipster in his own right, solidified that when he had Jack on his TV show reading from, “On the Road.” But Larry wanted to me a “bohemian,” fuck “beat” not enough history for him. He always imagined himself wearing a beret in Paris in the twenties, hanging out with Hem, Gertie, Scott, and the rest, maybe getting his photo taken on a beach with Pablo, maybe Miro. Shit, at that time, all you had to do was send a manuscript to some New York publisher postmarked from Paris and it was enough to get your shit read, if not published. Now, there’s just so fucking many of us. So much boring, predictable, pedantic, boring shit, that it’s become harder for any singular voice to break through. Not impossible, just harder. Larry though, was smart enough to recognize talent, radical talent at that time: Allen, of course, but O’Hara of “Lunch Poems” Corso, and this cat Bob Kaufman who wrote a couple of real live things: The Golden Sardine and “The Scum Manifesto” which kinda tried to outline what the writers of that time should be doing. A new Surrealist thing, or Dada. All kinds of shit jumped off from that San Francisco renaissance.
    I wish I were better at this internet thing, but I’m not. Always, foolishly sometimes, resisted the advances of civilization, not realizing how apropos and radical it could be. Much like those little presses and rags of the fifties and sixties, this might level out, somewhat, the playing field. When my memoir was supposed to be published by Farrar Straus & Giroux until the economy hit the skids, I looked for an alternative and found one, as I wrote the other day, on Smashwords. And now I’m trying to connect to others with a commonality of interests using the tool I used to publish, but it’s like anything else at first looked at, awkward because it’s new. Not a bad thing, only slow.
    I started a blog myself, JUNK SICK, and have decided, because I really didn’t know what the hell else to do, post my poetry, beginning in the sixties. I think you can get to it by going to either Norman Savage or JUNKSICK dot com.
    Curious to learn what you’re, and others, are doing these days.

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