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A Lost 'Little Boy' Nears 100: Poet And Publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti

"For Lawrence Ferlinghetti, living to be 100 is no fun. Speaking from his home in San Francisco recently, Ferlinghetti said he's practically blind now — he can't read, and he's skipping his big birthday bash at the bookstore he co-founded, City Lights in San Francisco."

'They're going to have quite a celebration,' he says. 'But I won't be there. It's no use, my appearing in public, because I couldn't speak. I mean, I could speak, but on account of my eyesight it would be' — he pauses to laugh — 'I don't know what it would be.'"

"Nevertheless, Ferlinghetti — who will turn 100 this Sunday, March 24 — has a lot to celebrate. Once a standout poet of the Beat Generation, his bookstore has become a popular landmark and the small press of the same name is still in business after more than 60 years. And he's just published a new novel."

"His 1958 book of poetry A Coney Island of the Mind sold more than a million copies. In it, he compares the horrors depicted in Goya's paintings of the Napoleonic Wars to scenes of post-World War II America:

We are the same people / only further from home / on freeways fifty lanes wide / on a concrete continent / spaced with bland billboards / illustrating imbecile illusions of happiness"

"Gerald Nicosia is a Bay Area critic who has written extensively about the Beat writers. He says Ferlinghetti is notable for writing poetry in everyday language."


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