Lunch Poems: Lawrence Ferlinghetti



Oh hello and welcome to lunch poems in the Morrison library I can just feel the excitement bubbling in the room here today I want to thank you all for being here and I just want to mention we do have a mailing list by the librarians desk and we still have four more readings coming up in the spring we'll take a little break here but we'll be back February 2nd Wasowski Hamilton so please come back for that and just a few things Zach Rogo is here he will he's the former lunch pumps coordinator and one of its founders he'll be introducing Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Robert Hess will introduce Zachary go and Zach just wanted me to mention there's a chain of events happening and Zach just wanted me to mention we are very pleased that he the face of poetry has just been published and that features ten years of lunch poems and there are two readings coming up to celebrate that book the first is on December 7th at 7:30 at Cody's and the second is December 13th at 7:00 at a clean well-lighted place for books in San Francisco so now please join me in welcoming Robert Hess thank you all for coming we're only doing this fire brigade because I also wanted to welcome Lawrence Ferlinghetti and say how grateful I am that he's come today but and I'm gonna introduce Zach Rogo who who started this series who had the idea that it would be delicious to be able to hear poets in this room once a month and it's now 10 years of of lush poem since Zach gave us a wonderful gift and it's commemorated partly in this new book just out the face of poetry which includes the photographs of the poets by Margaret and Mitchell who's right here and and the book itself edited by Zach and it's also going to be over there with Lawrence Ferlinghetti spooks Zach is a poet and gifted translator in addition to now being the editor of two lines the best journal of translation literary translation of the country so please welcome him thanks Bob it's it's a thrill to be here to introduce Lawrence Ferlinghetti who was a boyhood idol of mine and you probably know that he was a leading figure in The Beat Generation which really rocked America in the 1950s both socially and culturally and he also is the co-founder of City Lights bookstore which I think it's fair to say is the most beloved and well visited literary landmark in North America and of course the the editor-in-chief of city lights books which published among other things the book lunch poems by frank O'Hara where the series gets its name one of the less well-known sights of Lawrence Ferlinghetti is that he's been all his life both a leader and a rebel when he was a teenager he was a boy scout and he made Eagle Scout at the same month that he was arrested for shoplifting I'm not sure anyone else could claim that during World War two he was a 90-day wonder the 90-day wonders were a group of very talented and bright young people who were enlisted basically to revitalize the Navy Navy after the disaster of Pearl Harbor and they were very quickly fast-tracked into highly responsible roles and Lawrence Ferlinghetti commanded at the age of I think 25 a ship during the d-day invasion of Normandy and he also got to witness the the horrors of war firsthand he was present at Nagasaki not many weeks after the bomb was dropped there and so I could imagine that that was very formative he's also an accomplished painter and his paintings have been exhibited and won prizes nationally and internationally and I think the painting is a thread that runs throughout his his poems his love of a visual art both as a child and as an adult he lived for a stretch in France and he actually has a doctoral degree from the Sorbonne is that correct and translated the work of the wonderful poet Jacques Prevert into English his ninth volume of poetry America's book one was published last year when he reached the young age of 85 and it's one of his strongest books at one the Northern California book reviewers Association award it's a fascinating collage of memories literary quotations with the distinctively Ferlinghetti twist historical records headlines personal letters it's it's I think the most ambitious effort by an American poet to weave together all the threads of American history and world culture since the Kantas of Ezra Pound so please welcome Lawrence Ferlinghetti I can't possibly live up to such a beautiful introduction full of exaggerations drives of animals dying in a dream within the dream I dreamt a dream all the animals dying out all animals everywhere dying wild animals bring it Adam heathered animals more than scaled in furry animal reading and guy dying in shrinking rainforests in Pineywoods and I see arrows tumbleweed Mason captured beaten starved and stunned cornered and traded species not meant to be nomadic nomadic wandering ruthless man all the animals crying out in their hidden places slinking away and crawling away through the last wild places through the dense underbrush the last great sickness beyond the mountains criss crossed with switchbacks beyond the marshal beyond the plains and fences in the high country in the low country in the bayous Criss crossed with highways in a dream within the dream how they feed and run and run and hide how the seals are beaten on ice fields and soft white furry seals with eggshell skulls the great green turtles beaten and eaten exotic birds nested and caged and tethered rare wild beasts and strange reptiles and weird losers hunted down for zooms by bearded black marketeers who afterwards right around Singapore in German limousines with French whores and all the animals calling to each other calling to each other codes we never understand you see steer cry out the same voice the same cry the wounds never heal we steal their lives defeat our own with their lives our dreams our sound in a dream within a dream I saw of the bed breadth of machines sickened earth and men and bottom line capitalism masquerading as democracy grapes earth and man but in a dream I dreamt a dream about all the watershed people of the earth all the ethnic peoples of the earth all the dish and French people of the world the mom-and-pop people of America the youth of America and the poor of America would at last rise up and dismantle industrial civilization without killing anybody and save mankind from itself I feel like I medieval monk trying to read by candlelight up here this is a recital of more or less random choice of favorite poems and some recent ones the very first point when I came to San Francisco 1951 from a rooftop in North Beach it's the first poem in my first book pictures of the gone world trying to get comfortable up here away above a harbor full of Caucus houses among the Charlie Noble chimney-pots of a rooftop rigged with clotheslines a woman pastes up sails upon the wind hanging out her morning sheets with wooden pins her nearly naked breasts throw taut shadows when she stretches up to hang at last the last of her so whitewash sins but it is wetly amorous and winds itself about her clinging to her skin so caught with arms upraised she tosses back her head in voiceless laughter and in choiceless gesture then shakes out gold hair while in the reach 'less she escapes spaces between the blown white shrouds stand out the bright steamers to kingdom come heaven was only half as far that night at the poetry recital listening to the burnt phrases when I heard the poet have a rhyming erection then look away with a lost look every animal he said at last after intercourse is sad but the back row lovers looked oblivious and glad reading Yeats reading Yeats I do not think of Ireland but of midsummer New York and of myself back then reading that copy I found on the 3rd Avenue held the L with its fly hung fans and its signs reading spitting is forbidden the L careening through its third storey world with its third storey people in their third storey doors looking as if they had never heard of the ground an old dame watering her plan or its joker in a straw putting a stick pen in his peppermint tie and looking just like he had nowhere to go but Coney Island or another shirted guy rocking in his rocker watching the L passed by as if he expected it to be different each time reading Yeats I do not think of Arkadiy and of its woods which Yeats thought dead I think instead of all the gone faces getting off at midtown places with their hats and their jobs and of that last book I had with its blue cover and it's white inside where a pencil and horsemen pass by there should be some silence between poems I get a picture at an Exhibition pictures at an Exhibition have to have some space between them but I have just 40 minutes so I don't want to waste too much time on silence this is the first poem in a Coney Island of the mind Francisco Francisco going Goa in Goya's greatest scenes we seem to see the people of the world exactly at the moment when they first attained the title of suffering humanity they rise upon the page in a virtual rage of adversity heaped up groaning with babies and bayonets under cement skies in an abstract landscape a blasted trees bent statues bats wings and beaks slippery giblets cadavers and carnivorous and all the final hollering monsters of the imagination of disaster they are so bloody real it is as if they really still existed and they do only the landscape has changed we still arranged along the roads plagued by Legionnaires Falls windmills and demented roosters we are the same people only further from home on freeways 50 lanes wide on a concrete continent spaced with bland billboards illustrating imbecile illusions of happiness the same shows fewer tumbles but more spaced out citizens in painted cars and they have strange license plates and engines that devour America a few more from Coney Island of the mind see it was like this when we waltz into this place a couple of far-out cats is doing an Aztec two-step and I says dad let's cut but then this Dame comes up behind me see and says you and me could really exist Wow I says only the next day she has bad teeth and really hates poetry don't let that horse eat that violin cried Chagall's mother but he kept right on painting and became famous and kept on painting the horse with violin in mouth and when he finally finished it he jumped up upon the horse and rode away waving the violin and then with a low bow gave it to the first naked nude he ran across and there were no strings attached the penny candy store beyond the yell is where I first fell in love with unreality jellybeans glowed in the semi gloom of that September afternoon a cat upon the counter moved among the licorice sticks and tootsie rolls and oh boy come outside the leaves were falling as they died a wind had blown away the Sun a girl ran in her hair was rainy her breasts were breathless in the little room outside the leaves were falling and they cried too soon too soon constantly risking absurdity and death whenever he performs above the heads of his audience the poet like an acrobat climbs on rhyme to a high wire of his own making and balancing on my beams above a sea of faces paces his way to the other side of day performing artists shots and sleight of foot chicks another Heisey attrex and all without mistaking anything for what it may not be for ease the super realist who must perforce perceive taut truths before the taking of each dancer step in his supposed advance toward that still higher perch where Beauty stands and waits with gravity to start her death-defying leap and he a little Charlie Chaplin man who may or may not catch a fairy turtle form spread-eagled in existence here's a few Big Sur poems Bigsby Canyon Ave ask if a vast confusion long long I lay in the sands sound of trains in the surf in subways of the sea and an even greater under sound of a vast confusion in the universe a rumbling and a roaring as if some enormous creature turning undersea enters a billion sotto voices murmuring a vast muttering a swelling stuttering in ocean speakers world's voice box heard with year to send a shot echoing a shocking shouting of all lives voices lost in night and the tape of it somehow running backwards now through the Moog synthesiser of time and see chaos unscrambled back to the first harmonies and the first light lamp blocks a view of part of the audience them I'd like to see use what you'd like to see me hello there this boy my ode to Kenneth Rexroth appointment is called Lyle's hypothesis some of you may see the connection but the two cats that were here the two candidates that were here in San Francisco when I arrived in the 50s we're really the kings of the poetry scene there was a mater the painter familiar of the San Francisco poets at that time Kenneth Rexroth and Kenneth Patchen Patchen was living in North Beach at that time both Kenneth's are unjust unjustly ignored today especially Rexroth had an enormous influence and all the san francisco poets at that time especially Gary Snyder Rexroth mountain poems direct line to Gary's instead of Lyles hypothesis this is Olbers ubers paradox Biggs began yin and I heard them I heard the learn'd astronomer whose name was heinrich Olbers speaking to us across the centuries about how he observed with naked eye how in the sky there were some few stars close up and the further away he looked the more of them there were with infinite numbers of clusters of stars in myriad Milky Way's and myriad nebulae so that from this we may deduce that in the infinite distances there must be a place there must be a place where all is light and that the light from that high place where all is light simply hasn't got here yet which is why we still have night but when at last that light arrives when at last it does get here the part of day we now call night will have a white sky with little black dots in it little black holes where once were stars and then in that symbolic so poetic place which will be ours will be our own two shadows and our own illumination on a sunset earth the learner professors are still publishing books trying to explain why we have night or why do we have darkness at night but there still isn't a good explanation maybe there's some learning astronomers here can enlighten me us another Big Sur poem nights black mirror is broken the star crab has scuttled away with the inkwell from into India Don sews its mustard seed in the steep ravines and gulches a Big Sur small animal stir under the tough underbrush as Sun creeps down the canyon walls into the narrow meadows where the wild quail run and o'clock daytime moon after much reflection says Sun is God and the stream standing still rushes forward deep chess life itself like championship chess dark players jousting on a checker to yield where you have only so much time to complete your moves and your clock running all the time and if you take too much time for one move you have much less for the rest of your life and your opponent dark or fair begging bugging you with his deep eyes or obscenely wiggling his crazy eyebrows or blowing smoke in your face or crossing and recrossing his legs or her legs are otherwise screwing around and acting like some insolent and vulnerable unbeatable God who can read your mind and heart and one hasty move may ruin you for you must play deep chess like the one deep game Spassky one from Fischer and if your unstudied opening was not too brilliant you must play to win not draw and suddenly come up with a new Nabokov variation and then lay him out at last with some super endgame no one has ever even dreamed of and there's still time your move one of my more more infrequent visitors visits to New York Queens cemetery settings son airport bus from JFK cruising through Queens passing huge and the cemeteries by Long Island's old Expressway once a dirt path for Wheeless Indians myriad small tombstones tilted up gesturing statues on parapets stone arms or wings are praised to lost among illegible inscriptions and the setting yellow sun painting all of them on one side only with an ochre brush rows and rows and rows of small stone slabs tilted toward the Sun forever while on the far horizon manna hatas great stone slabs skyscraper tombs and parapets casting their own long black shadows over these long-haired graves the final resting places the final Restless places of all country potato farmers dustbin pawn brokers dead dagoes and Dublin bouncers tinsmiths and blacksmiths and roofers house painters and house carpenters cabinet makers and cigar makers garment workers and streetcar motor men railroad switch men and signal salesman swabiz and sweepers and swampers steamfitters and keypunch operators Ward Heelers and labor organizers railroad Dixon small-time mafiosi shopkeepers and saloon keepers and doormen Iseman and middlemen and con men housekeepers and housewives and dowager's French house maids and Swedish cooks Brooklyn barmaids and Bronxville Butler's opera singers and Gandy dancers pitchers and catchers in the days of ragtime baseball pool room hustlers and fight promoters Catholics sisters of charity parish priests and Irish cops Viennese doctors of delirium now all abandon in eternity parcels in a dead letter office inscrutable addresses on them beyond further deliverance in an America willing past them and disappearing oblivious into East rivers echoing tunnels down the great American drain I was in Spoleto in the 70s during his her pounds silent period and this is a report I sent back to the old Saturday Review pounded Spoleto I walked into a large in the Teatro meli so the lovely Renaissance sau where the poet readings and the chamber concerts were held every day of the Spoleto Festival and suddenly saw Ezra Pound for the first time still as a Mandarin statue in a box in a balcony at the back of the theater one tear up from the stalls it was a shock seeing only a striking old man a striking old man in curious pose then an long-haired aquiline at 80 head tilted strangely to one side lost in permanent abstraction after three young poets on stage he was scheduled to read from his box and there he sat with an old friend who held his papers waiting he regarded the knuckles of his hands moving them a very little expressionless only once when everyone else no full theater applauded someone on stage the arouse himself to clap without looking up as if stimulated by a sound in a void after almost an hour his turn came or afterlife everyone in the hall rose turn and look back in up at pound in his booth applauding the applause was prolonged and power and tried to rise some is there from his arm gerrae a microphone was partly in the way he grasped the arms of the chair with his bony hands and tried to rise he could not and he tried again and could not and try it again and could not his old friend didn't I tried to help him finally she put a poem in his hand and after at least a minute his voice came out first the jaw moved and then the voice came out inaudible young Italian pulled the mic up very close to his face and held it there and the voice came over frail but stubborn higher than I had expected a thin soft monotone the hall had gone silent at a stroke the voice knocked me down so soft so thin so frail so stubborn still I put my head on my arms on the velvet sill of the box I was surprised to see a single tear drop on my knee the thin indomitable voice went on I went blind from the box through the back door of it into the empty corridor of the theater where they still sat turned to him went down and out into the sunlight weeping up above the house up above the town by the ancient aqueduct the chestnut trees were still in bloom mute birds flew in the valley below the sun shone on the chestnut trees and the leaves turned in the sun and turned and turned and turned and would continue turning his voice went on and on through the leaves this is a very short passage from the first I don't want to use the word can till the first part of America's my most recent book to summarize the past by theft and illusion with a Paris song apparently a palimpsest a manuscript River a graph of consciousness at best a consciousness of felt life rushing together of the raisins of wrath of living and dying the laughter and forgetting the maze and a maze of life sound of the eternal dialogue echoing through the centuries of all the voices that ever sang or wrote bearers of our consciousness and the flux of history interrupted by catastrophes flowers blooming out of season sound of weeping beyond reason a pianist playing in the ruins of progress a London Fog a cow a cow a clod at a country crossing dark dawn and a roosters cry kicked in a key a light that ever was on land and sea and Teatro firmwares in the Rue de the labyrinth on the floor of Chartres Cathedral and a Warsaw concerto heard distantly on a Detroit mall full of gumball goombahs on rollerskates cry of a black singer in a beat-up Harlem bar a bat hitting a ball in the first game a new season you laughter in eucalyptus forests in a smiling summer dream and fool's gold leaming in a California stream all the images of the splendid life of the world down the rivers of windfall light a trillion trillion images Calot kaleidoscopic in a psychedelic tropic later boiled down to a seminar topic a song we sung by a bird flown over to another zone another climate primate mutated into many colors rot from the dark his mother long ago from the dark of ancient Europa you're a man and you're a woman in the hold of a listing freighter with Americus in the womb born by the Hudson and Grant's Tomb he was an American he was an American boy he read the American boy magazine and became a Boy Scout in the suburbs he thought he was Tom Sawyer catching crayfish in the Bronx River and imagining the Mississippi he had a baseball mitt and an American Flyer bike he delivered the woman's home companion at 5:00 in the afternoon or the Herald trib at 5:00 in the morning it was long since he was a herdsman I hope this is the right CD wrong this is the last point I'm gonna do cuz time is practically up inasmuch as President Bush saw fit to use the disaster of 9/11 as an excuse to start the third world war that is the war with the third world I wrote this point history of the airplane and the Wright brothers said they thought they had invented something that could make peace on earth if the wrong brothers didn't get hold of it when they're wonderful flying machine took off at Kitty Hawk into the kingdom of birds but the Parliament of birds was freaked out by this man-made bird and fled to heaven then and then the famous spirit of st. Louis took off eastward and flew across the big pond with Lindy at the controls in his leather helmet and goggles hoping to sight the doves of peace but he did not even though he circled Versailles and then and then the famous Yankee Clipper took off in the opposite direction and flew across the terrific Pacific but the Pacific doves were freighted by the strange amphibious bird and hid in the Orient sky and then the famous Flying Fortress took off bristling with guns and testosterone to make the world safe for peace and capitalism but the birds of peace were nowhere to be found before or after Hiroshima and so then clever men built bigger and faster flying machines and these great man-made birds with jet plumage flew higher than any real birds and seemed about to fly into the Sun and melt their wings and like Icarus crashed to earth and the Wright brothers were long forgotten in the high-flying bombers that now now began to visit their blessings on various third worlds all the while claiming they were searching for doves of peace and they kept flying and flying until they flew right into the 21st century and then one fine day a third-world struck back and storm the Great Plains and flew them straight into the beating heart of skyscraper America there were no ABA no aviaries and no Parliament of dogs and in a blinding flash America became a part of the scorched earth of the world and a wind of ashes blew across the land and for one long moment in eternity there is chaos and despair and buried loves and voices cries and whispers cries and whispers fill the air everywhere you

17 thoughts on “Lunch Poems: Lawrence Ferlinghetti

  1. To our dear faces of shit,
    by Poetainazione
    (to click on youtube)

  2. Here's a poem for you that is actually incorporated into one of my paintings. Put in psychotic episode 107 then go to the artist web site at the end of the video for thirty more poems, paintings and drawings. Give your evaluations.

  3. also WOW WOW WOW that last poem…… the ideas of birds, flight, the american Eagle for God's sake the imagery is amazingly intertwined… flying, hijacking, the 3rd world, the 3rd world war just WOW what connections, the man has it all the voice and all

  4. That is amazing to listen to… i found a site that has cool writing and poetry also it is ColorsAndSounds dot

  5. The seagulls were freaky at first. But the poem slowly worked it out.. Very inspiring is poetry that involves astronomy…

  6. He was at D-Day too!!!
    I thought he only clobbered them at Nagasaki!?
    He really was Popeye!

    But yeah, that's it–I have to ask myself "why do I hate America so much?"

  7. Popeye's grandpappy shipping the same shop-worm poems and Baloney.

  8. I love the way Lawrence reads. Can you believe it, he and Ginsberg, Ed Sanders, and others started the Beat Generation.

  9. My soul, sleeping
    through a fascist high school
    was awakened by a poem
    in a dusty anthology
    'Christ Climbed Down"
    and, with my heart, ran away
    to San Francisco where,
    at City Lights, Lawrence presided
    over a Feast of Beats
    and Gave Voice
    to a Vixen — Freedom!

    jrs

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