Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti turns 90 on March 24, 2009. All through the years I lived in San Francisco, he was a familiar figure in coffeehouses or walking in North Beach, a guardian of the City.
I first had the nerve to speak with Lawrence, when I found myself standing in line with him at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market. I gushed that City Lights Books was the center of the universe. He looked at me skeptically, but smiled. Years later, after I had designed a number of book covers for City Lights, I worked with him to edit and present a selection of his life drawings in Life Studies, Life Stories.
“I am waiting for the Age of Anxiety to drop dead”. This line, from Coney Island of the Mind, in 1958, still rings like a clarion call. Ferlinghetti’s best poems offer this sort of deep optimism and faith in life. Of course, we can tell the modern age to drop dead so that a gentler world can replace it. Of course, we can go sit in the poetry room at City Lights and read Basho on a foggy night when nothing else makes much sense. Of course.
The photos from top to bottom are: Lawrence and Gary Snyder at a North Beach reading in November, 2011; Lawrence on Columbus Avenue outside City Lights Books in 2001; Lawrence at a book release gathering in City Lights, 2004; Lawrence signing books in 2011.