Lawrence Ferlinghetti Remembered

Over the past few days, more tributes and memories in honor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who died on Monday, have poured in. Among a few:

Maria A. Pallante, president and CEO, Association of American Publishers, said, "We join AAP member City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, and publishers everywhere, in mourning the loss of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, a true champion of the printed word who leaves an extraordinary legacy personified by his essential poetry, his fabled bookstore, his extraordinary work as a promoter and publisher, and his historic role as a proud defender of First Amendment rights."


KQED offered photos from an impromptu memorial for Lawrence Ferlinghetti on Tuesday evening outside City Lights Books that included close friends and people touched by his work.


The San Francisco Chronicle's Datebook also discussed the memorial and expanded on how Ferlinghetti touched so many people in San Francisco and around the world. It quoted the late poet Michael McClure, who said last year, "Lawrence Ferlinghetti is the most-read poet of modern times. His own books of poetry and his series for City Lights Press raised and deepened the consciousness of imaginations of many generations, and they continue to do so. City Lights is and was the center of the poetry world."


The Guardian offered a range of tributes, including this from Stacey Lewis, City Lights's v-p of publicity, marketing and sales. "I started here 25 years ago, and I was lucky enough to see him every morning when he would come in," she said. In later years he mainly checked mail and wrote postcards. "He answered fan mail in a very intentional way. He was signing books up until a few years ago, when he couldn't physically do it any more." She also recalled a line of his that City Lights staff favor. "I'm pretty sure it's a poem in A Coney Island of the Mind: 'You and me could really exist.' "


City Lights posted "The Elegy Arcane," a poem by Jack Hirschman in memory of his dear friend Ferlinghetti.


The Nation's John Nichols remembered Ferlinghetti as "a radical who warmly embraced the revolutionary impulses of the many generations for which he was a spokesperson.... To my mind, what made Ferlinghetti so refreshing was his delight with each new generation's readiness to challenge the status quo it had been handed."


Bridget Kinsella Tiernan, publicist at Stanford University Press, offered this remembrance:

"I'm embarrassed to admit this, but shortly after gulping back my sadness at the news of Lawrence Ferlinghetti's passing, it dawned on me that I owe him gratitude for helping me overcome one of my own prejudices--a legacy that I think would please him immensely.

"Twenty years ago when I was planning to leave a New York job covering the national book beat to take over as a regional correspondent, a trusted friend asked me point blank if I was going to be able to handle the demotion in status. And even though I was born and raised in New Jersey, my years in New York City had affected my regional biases enough that I had to admit that the thought crossed my mind. Would I be as 'important' a reporter out of the heart of the publishing scene?

"Then, just a couple of months into my stint in California, the city of San Francisco shut down the street in front of City Lights to celebrate the bookstore's designation as a landmark and covering that event permanently changed my regionally biased mind. Of course, I knew who Lawrence Ferlinghetti was, but a few days before I had the chance to interview him for the first time and then I got to record how a veritable who's who of the world of the words turned out on a glorious California day and in great bohemian fashion to pay tribute to the store and its founder.

"Amusingly, a mock-pleading line of poetry from that celebration always popped into my mind whenever I saw or interviewed Lawrence: Bookstore, be my Daddy.

"Even though I treasure those interviews--oft conducted on the sideline of a fabulous book bash in full swing--I keep thinking about the time I spotted Lawrence ahead of me in line at the Oakland airport. That night we'd both be at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books awards ceremony where Lawrence would be receiving an honor and I'd be interviewing him about it. But instead of greeting him (which he would not have minded), I watched in appreciation as this seemingly ordinary elderly gentleman, who happened to change the world in very big ways as well as one book at a time, navigated the routine of travel.

"My other memory is heading over to the store on his 100th birthday, where there was a special reading, that, again the world turned out for. By now, I had enough friends at City Lights to have asked if there were any reserved spots allowed, but I thought it too pushy and just not City Lights-like. And, as I stood outside the packed store with my nose practically pushed up to that storied window among strangers trying to take in what we could, I thought it the perfect way to pay tribute to Lawrence on his centennial.

"I am so glad that others are writing about the many accomplishments and gifts Lawrence Ferlinghetti shared during his long life, but, for me, the piece of his art I value most is a hand-written sign above a chair in the poetry room upstairs in the store that directs: Sit down and read a book.

"Getting a person to read and open their minds was his calling. What my association with his San Francisco landmark has taught me is that with an open mind you know you are important anywhere, and no more or less important than the next open mind that you meet. Lawrence Ferlinghetti knew that the meeting of minds was a thing of beauty and he so loved the world that he created City Lights with the opportunity of discovery as its beating heart. Thank you, Lawrence, for being all of our Daddys."

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