March 20 2019
Today Lawrence Ferlinghetti turns 100 years old. When he was much younger and I was younger still, I walked into City Lights Bookstore with eyes wide open, browsed, and purchased Howl, Coney Island of the Mind and Pomes Penyeach by James Joyce.
Ferlinghetti was 47 years old and I was 15. I didn’t know who I was talking to at the time, but he and I had a delightful conversation about poetry, writing, and the weather, which was sunny and warm on that San Francisco day.
Years later, my friend Mary Jo told me it was indeed the poet himself who engaged me that day in silly, flirtatious banter.
I’m so glad I didn’t know it then.
At the time I was spellbound by "on a freeway fifty lanes wide/ a concrete continent/ spaced with bland billboards/ illustrating imbecile illusions of happiness." I would certainly have made a fool of myself.
I was a big Whitman fan then, and was just growing a sense of modern poetry, not the kind we were reading in school. The words fuck and beat were kind of synonymous with not allowed.
I was on a summer trip, driving to California with my art teacher, Sylvia Neth, who wanted me to meet her niece. It was an eyes-wide-open time for my young naive self. Mary Jo and I got along much too well and were comrades in trouble. The things we did then were innocent compared to messes kids get into today. We smoked cigarettes, snuck out the bedroom window, wore very short skirts, read beat poetry, and flirted with 47 year old men.
Thanks for the memories, Lawrence. I owe you.
"Poetry is the shadow cast by our streetlight imaginations." LF
Thanks for reading