Arts Listings

Books: Lawrence Ferlinghetti to Read from New Work at Moe’s Books on Tuesday

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Tuesday September 25, 2007

“If you would be a poet, write living newspapers. Be a reporter from outer space, filling dispatches to some supreme managing editor who believes in full disclosure and has a low tolerance for bullshit.” 


—Lawrence Ferlinghetti,  

from the opening of  

Poetry as Insurgent Art  

(to be given away by Moe’s as a  

broadside at the Oct. 2 reading) 


Lawrence Ferlinghetti, famed Beat poet, publisher of Allen Ginsberg’s notorious Howl and proprietor of City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco’s North Beach, will read from his new and ongoing “ars poetica,” Poetry as Insurgent Art (New Directions), 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2 at Moe’s Books at 2476 Telegraph Ave. Admission is free.  

“We’re happy Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s going to cross the Bay to read at Moe’s,” said Owen Hill, organizer of the Moe’s reading series. “He hasn’t read in Berkeley for a while, and I was told that the only other Bay Area reading from his new book will be at his own store. I think it’s fitting he’ll be reading here, on Telegraph, across from the Cafe Med, where Ginsberg reputedly wrote part of Howl, and at Moe’s, the other literary gathering place besides City Lights. He’s said he’s eager to read here, to support another independent bookstore—and Moe’s, like City Lights, has managed to survive a long time.” 

Ferlinghetti, a native of Yonkers, N.Y., served as a naval officer during World War II, later crediting his longtime pacifist beliefs to witnessing the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki as a member of the occupation force there. After attending Columbia in New York and the Sorbonne in Paris on the G.I. Bill, Ferlinghetti moved to San Francisco, at the urging of Kenneth Rexroth, whom he had met in Paris. 

In 1953, City Lights Bookstore, the first all-paperback store in the U.S., was opened by Ferlinghetti and Pete Martin, known for his deadpan wit, who had published a magazine of the same name, after Chaplin’s film title. Two years later, Martin went back to New York, and Ferlinghetti started the press, and its Pocket Poets series, which leapt into the news in 1956, with the impounding of Howl, published shortly after its premiere at the famed 6 Gallery reading, for obscenity and its successful courtroom defense. His own popular books, Pictures of the Gone World and A Coney Island of the Mind, came out in 1955 and ‘58, respectively, which helped define Beat poetry and sensibility, and which launched a career that has seen over 30 books published. 

In 1994, an alley in North Beach was named in Ferlinghetti’s honor. He was declared Poet Laureate of San Francisco in 1998, and in 2000 received a lifetime achievement award from the National Book Critics Circle. He continues to work at City Lights, to write and to paint and exhibit. 

Of his book Poetry as Insurgent Art, Ferlinghetti has written, “After a lifetime, this (r)evolutionary little book is still a work-in-progress, the poet’s ars poetica, to which at 88 he is constantly adding. The earliest version ... was transcribed from a KPFA (FM) broadcast by the author in the late 1950s.”