Dante’s Fire Escape: the passing of a great poet/publisher/artist/man

Poetry is a flower of an instant in eternity… Poetry can be heard at manhole covers, echoing up Dante’s fire escape. Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Lawrence Ferlinghetti passed away this week at the age of 101 years old. Ferlinghetti was a poet, publisher, painter, and co-founder of the very famous City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco. He was a very influential force in publishing, especially with the Beats. Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsburg used to hang out there, along with other Beat greats like Gregory Corso and Gary Snyder.

In 1955, Ferlinghetti heard Allen Ginsburg read his famous controversial epic poem Howl, and offered him a publishing deal the next day. The poem was banned by the American government. It was at the center of a obscenity case and trial that got Ginsberg and Ferlinghetti arrested. Howl is a pretty good movie about Ginsberg and his writing.

Ferlinghetti’s most famous collection of poetry is A Coney Island of the Mind. Here he is reading his Loud Prayer – a riff on the Lord’s Prayer, as part of the movie “The Last Waltz” which documented the final concert of The Band.

Ferlinghetti was involved in the first day of landing at Normandy on D-Day June 6, 1944. After the war, in his duties in the Navy he visited Nagasaki, where the second atomic bomb was dropped. The experience changed him forever and he became an advocate for world peace and justice.

I am awaiting perpetually and forever a renaissance of wonder. Ferlinghetti

In addition to Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti was a major influence in getting the Beat icon Jack Kerouac’s work published, as well as loaning him money and the use of his cabin in Big Sur. On the Road had just been published and Kerouac needed a place to re-energize. He produced Big Sur his first novel after On the Road – This episode in the great writer’s life was made into movies and documentaries. One Fast Move or I’m Gone

Kerouac influenced thousands of writers / poets/ artists/ cosmic vagabonds, including me. He was the first writer that spoke to me directly, and his spirit accompanied me on many adventures. He rode shotgun beside me, as a friend and I, stoned on sensemilla, barreled through a grass fire at midnight – blazing across the Painted Desert between walls of fire and a heaven ablaze with stars and sparks and the promise of tomorrow….our souls soared up Dante’s Fire Escape and into Eternity.

One very amazing thing about Ferlinghetti is you could wander into City Lights, and if he was around he’d be happy to chat with you a while. How many people’s lives did he change in this way? I know one.

So here’s to the great man of letters, the man of peace, the man of this world. May his poems be read a thousand years from now. Amen.

I leave you with a touch of inspiration from Lawrence Ferlinghetti Poetry is the shortest distance between two people.

Published by cewheeler

Writer/Artist:12 years in China – univ. lecturer: writing,poetry,culture; editor – magazine/newspaper & actor. 40 years students of the Tao. Traveler. Father. Read my books at: amazon.com/author/wheelerce

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