Honorary members were added to the original Beat Generation (Burroughs, Kerouac, Ginsberg) in the years after it was founded. Among them is the figure of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, a poet from the San Francisco Bay area who became the editor of an explosive book: Howl, the Allen Ginsberg.
His only work as an editor would have been enough to make it go down in history. Since Tropic of Cancer no book had been so harassed as Howl. He was brought to trial for obscenity. Emotional patron of the City Lights bookstore and publishing house, through the Pocket Poets collection, Ferlinghetti disseminated great poets such as Denise Levertov, Gregory Corso, Philip Lamantia, Diane di Prima and a powerful etcetera that has lasted up to sixty-one titles .
But in addition to being a bookseller and editor, he was a poet. Not just any one. Author of a fundamental book of poetry:
A Coney Island of the Mind. Whose only version into Spanish was published by Hiperión in 1981. Son of Whitman, less scandalously than Ginsberg, but son at last, under the influence of the old gay bearded man, he wrote an extensive ode (more than a hundred verses), a song to himself same in “Autobiography”, belonging to the book Oral Messages, also included in the translation of Hiperión together with Pictures of the Gone World: “I live a quiet life / at the Mike Place Bar every day / watching the champions / from the Dante Pool Hall / and the vicious French from the Ball Machine. / I lead a quiet life / on the east side of Broadway. / I am an American. / He was an American boy. / I read American Boy Magazine / and became a Boy Scout / in the suburbs. / I thought it was Tom Sawyer / crabbing in the Bronx River / and imagining it was the Mississsippi […] I suffered / a little. / I am an American. / I have a passport. / I did not suffer in public. / And I’m too young to die. / I am a man who has made himself. / And I have plans for the future […] I am a word / in a tree. / I am a hill of poetry. / I am an incursion / against the inarticulate ”.
Ferlinghetti, poet, became editor of an explosive book: Howl
He had a peculiar relationship with Kerouac, the King of Beats. Jack was desperate because Ferlinghetti didn’t publish it. In the end it did. But their relationship went further. When the popularization of the Beatnik made it impossible for Kerouac to go unnoticed anywhere, Lawrence provided him with a cabin in California, where the author of In the path took refuge. There he wrote Gran Sur, for many his best work after In the path. In it Ferlinghetti appears as one of the characters. Without their help this novel might not have existed.
Ferlinghetti also had his Mexican adventures. He visited our country at the invitation of Carlos Martínez Renteria. From this connection the book was born The Mexican night. The only one that has been published by Ferlinghetti in Mexico. Like other beats before, he wrote about the fascination that different parts of our territory had on him. “Three days here and I can’t stand it anymore. I’ll be leaving in the morning. Dirty streets of Shit City. It is like dying; I suppose there is no escape, although the people here smile at each other from time to time and act as if they have a secret hope somewhere. While the consuls drink to death. Help. You can not live without loving? Let the ocean enter and bury everything ”.
Lawrence has died at 101. The last of the beats has left the world. There may be some left there, but not with the seminal importance that Ferlinghetti had. Who for years had retired from public life and his work, due to an aggressive glaucoma that had left him almost blind. Retired in his home and leading a holy life (to which so many aspired and apparently he was the only one capable of grasping).
He was an important figure for the consolidation of the counterculture. That in San Francisco he found a suitable field for his flourishing. He promoted a handful of fledgling poets who would become part of the universal history of literature. And he was a poet of the highest stature. An extraordinary poet. “But I am that man / I will be there. / And maybe I’ll get the lips / of the sleeping / to speak. / And maybe I’ll turn my notebooks / into bundles of grass. / And maybe I’ll write my own / eponymous epitaph / instructing the riders / to pass. ”