Tag Archives: Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Interview with Ferlinghetti

Ferlinghetti

At 93 Lawrence Ferlinghetti remains a giant in the poetry world; a man who was at the heart of the Beat Generation, a man who helped shaped contemporary poetry in the last century through his work at City Lights, his own creative output and his staunch activism. I came across this interview tonight and it is Lawrence at his razor-sharp best. I hope you find the time to read it… it’s a gift : Ferlinghetti talks to Christopher Bollen.

And here’s one of my all time favourite Lawrence poems… one that I have covered many times: In Goya’s greatest scenes…

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Ferlinghetti still kicking it at 92

On March 24, Beat icon, Lawrence Ferlinghetti celebrated his 92nd birthday. His work as a poet, activist, artist, publisher and co-founder of the legendary City Lights continue to have a profound influence on the arts and literary communtiy worldwide. His 1958 collection, A Coney Island of the Mind is still the best selling poetry collection in the USA, it’s wild jazz rhythms as potent as ever.

So Lawrence, happy (belated) 92nd birthday. To celebrate, here’s a podcast of Lawrence debuting material from his collection, Poetry as Insurgent Art back in 2007. And if that is not enough to satiate your need for Ferlinghetti’s bristling images, check out this reading of his classic poem, The World is a Beautiful Place.

In just a few short months, I will fulfil one of my life’s dreams of setting foot in City Lights… and who knows, maybe I will be lucky enough to bump into Lawrence while I am there.

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One Fast Move Or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur

There are many new films being made charting the life of The Beats at present (Ferlinghetti & Ginsberg’s Karma are two I have blogged about before). This latest film, One Fast Move Or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur is one that I am eagerly anticipating.

Ferlinghetti & Carolyn Cassady at Bixby Canyon

One Fast Move takes us back to Ferlinghetti’s cabin in Bixby Canyon, Big Sur as well as many of Kerouac’s San Franciscan and New York City haunts. Written in the aftermath of On the Road, Big Sur is a haunting epic, charting Kerouac’s own slide into tortured self-doubt, depression and alcoloholism. Big Sur is compelling in it’s ravaged beauty.

One Fast Move is told in voice over by actor and Kerouac interpreter,kerouac John Ventimiglia (The Sopranos) as well as through the refelections and musings of Beat originals, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure, Joyce Johnson & Carolyn Cassady as well as many of the writers, artists and musicians who have been transformed by Kerouac’s lyrical gift: Tom Waits, Patti Smith, Robert Hunter & Aram Saroyan.

And to top it all off, the soundtrack has been composed byJay Farrar (Son Volt) and Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie), with all of the lyrics taken directly from the pages of the orignial novel.

You can watch a trailer and listen to sample of the soundtrack on the website. So for all you Kerouac devotees and Beat followers, this film is bound to put a smile on your face.

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Sunday Morning News brought to you by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Ferlinghetti is a leading voice of the Wide Open Poetry Movement, founder of City Lights Books, champion of poetry and voice of social change. Since the 50′s, Ferlinghetti has been bringing us the news, through his incendiary verse. So here’s the news, this Sunday morning… Ferlinghetti style.

 

ferlinghetti

 

I Am Waiting 

I am waiting for my case to come up
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting
for someone to really discover America
and wail
and I am waiting
for the discovery
of a new symbolic western frontier
and I am waiting
for the American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right
and I am waiting
for the Age of Anxiety
to drop dead
and I am waiting
for the war to be fought
which will make the world safe
for anarchy
and I am waiting
for the final withering away
of all governments
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

(read the whole poem here)

 

And while you are getting some news, why not take another hit straight from the man’s mouth. Here’s a link to a great reading Ferlinghetti gave as part of the Lunch Poems series at Berkeley University early last year.

Enjoy your Sundays…

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Just Kissed Goodbye… Some memories of QPF 2009

QPF 2009 may have just been kissed goodbye, but the words of the 40+ artists who took to the stage continue to resonate in the heads and hearts of the thousands who attended. I am certain that these words will form the seed of many new poems, new friendships, new dialogues and to quote Ferlinghetti, ‘give voice to the tongueless streets’. This quote, alongside ‘wake up, the world is on fire’ (Ferlinghetti), and ‘spoken in one strange word’ (Judith Wright) were written in bold lettering across the windows of The Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts. These words breathed life into the shopfront space, which was a new (and may I add, very successful) venue for QPF 2009 and set the tone for an amazing weekend of words.

From the Official Opening where I had the privilege of reading the winning poem from this years Arts QLD Val Vallis Award for an Unpublished Poem – The Severant by Andrew Slattery, the festival simply hummed. I would love to share with you a couple of lines from the winning poem… words that will undoubtedly stay with me:

We have ammended the world.
As I walk home I unpick the seams from the footpaths.

Each muscle locomotes my frame.
I wear my suit and walk into the vista city;

through the old mine with its pile of coal like a dead whale;
past the doctor who repaired my chest;

past the tailor who sews spines
into standing men as they wait.

Throughout the festival, there are many other lines that etched themselves into the very fabric of my being… here are a few:

Cancer’s what gets us. Got Grandpa. Got Baba.
It turns you yellow in the end. So, I’ve been smoking
again.

(from Celebration by Elizabeth Bachinsky)

 

You suicided all my poetry was written on your skin first
line
second line
third line a tight rope tight knife

(from Chapter 5 by Paul Magee)

 

A scorched afternoon in the Alice
or the meltdown that lavas out of kiddies
when they cannot have a treat.

(from Station Street As A Dark Nickelodeon by Kent McCarter)

 

take with you plenty of water and one mustard seed of faith

(from Mount Wellington by Jane Williams)

 

Be still. I am the Bear from your dreams.

(from Nature Poem by AF Harrold)

 

And as the festival drew to a close on Sunday night, we celebrated another incredible session featuring the voices of the QPF Committee (Nerissa Rowan, Zenobia Frost, Debra Ralph, Alicia Bennett, John Koenig, Francis Boyle, Jodi DeVantier & this Lost Shark) alongside Jane Williams, Janet Jackson, Angela Costi, Paul Magee, Geoff Goodfellow, Neil Murray, Elizabeth Bachinsky, AF Harrold and Hinemoana Baker.

And importantly, we celebrated the many achievements of Festival Director, Julie Beverdige as she announced she would be standing down from the position. Julie has taken the festival to a new level during her two year tenure, building on the success of the first eleven years and putting in place the necessary structure to make QPF sustainable for many years to come.

QPF  has yet again provided some life changing moments for me (and many others). Moments that will fuel me, until we do it all again in 2010.

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(Near) Perfect Books of Poetry

The good folks over at Lilliput Review have been compiling a list of perfect or near perfect books of poetry and it has now reached the 200 mark.

You can check out the list here: http://lilliputreview.googlepages.com/nearperfectbooksofpoems

Many of the books on the list are books that have had a huge influence on me: Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Collected Greed Parts 1 – 13 by Diane Wakoski, 100 Poems from the Chinese tr. by Kenneth Rexroth and Poet in New York by Federico Garcia Lorca to name a few.

There are many books on the list I have never read (aaahhh to have the time to read everything I want) and there are of course many titles that I feel should be listed. After all, it wouldn’t be a list if you didn’t want to add to it!

So here are 5 suggestions from me…

On Love and Barley by Basho tr. by Lucien Stryk

The Best of Henri by Adrian Henri

The Clean Dark by Robert Adamson

Radiant Silhouette by John Yau; and

The Three Way Tavern by Ko Un

 

Each of these collections has had a profound impact on me and I could go on and list more, but I would love to hear which books of poetry you feel deserve to be on the list. So, please add your list of titles in the comments section and feel free to tell us why.

Look forward to hearing from you…

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Synaptic Graffiti, Ferlinghetti & Ginsberg’s Karma

I was excited to read that local collective Synaptic Graffiti are currently seeking submissions for a project titled ‘Memory’. The project seeks submissions of video poems that reflect the place of MEMORY in the construction/reconstruction of our personal and collective histories. Full submission details are available here:

http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=387605083&blogId=481904221

Their first project Slam the Body Politik featured over 350 works of poetry, noise, film, art, animation, performance and activism in a mutimedia format so I am sure that ‘Memory’ is going to be something very special. If video poems are your thing, you should check this out and if they’re not, find a filmmaker to transform your poetry for you.

 

ferlinghetti2

 

This got me looking around for poetry films and I stumbled across this gem… a film about one of my poetry heroes, Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Ferlinghetti is a feature-length documentary directed by Christopher Felver, and features archival photographs, historical footage, and interviews with Beat luminaries such as Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Gary Snyder and others. The documentary explores the life and work of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who turned ninety this year, and reveals how this iconic poet, artist, publisher, and activist served as a catalyst for numerous literary careers and for the Beat movement itself.

Watch the trailer here: http://ferlinghettifilm.com/trailer.html

 

ginsberg

 

Another film that is due for release is Ginsberg’s Karma. In the film, poet Bob Holman retraces Ginsberg’s Indian journey by visiting the places where he stayed and talking with the people he met. It features interviews with Synder, Joanne Kyger, Anne Waldman, and others. 

Watch the trailer here: http://vodpod.com/watch/1509500-ginsbergs-karma-trailer

 

From the look of the trailers, these two films will be well worth checking out.

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Desert(ed) Island Poems #6 – Alan Jefferies

Sunday morning is a time of strangeness… remnants of the week prior still swimming somewhere inside us and the prospects of the week ahead beginning to materialise. It is somehow quieter than all other mornings. The perfect space for us to travel in and out of the poems that inhabit the Desert(ed) Island of Alan Jefferies.

 

alan-jefferies

 

Each of the ten Desert(ed) Island poems illustrates for me one of the desirable qualities of poetry. Of course these qualities overlap and many of the poems contain more than one.  These traits are what I look for in poetry, my own and other peoples.

that which we call a rose - Michael Dransfield

Dransfield was probably the first Australian poet that I had a real encounter with. A lot of Australian poetry that I’d read up to the age of 17 had no effect on me whatsoever. Dransfield stopped me. He was a hard one to get past. He remains for me one of only a handful of Australian poets, living or dead, who deserves that title. I’ll always remember reading the poem “Fix” to the prefects in year 12 at Cleveland State High. “Once you’ve become a drug addict, you never want to become anything else”. They were horrified. I learnt then that great poetry can make comfortable people uncomfortable, and in the Land of Snug, that’s not such a bad thing. The quality that this Dransfield poem illustrates for me is directness. Saying how it is without artifice or ploy.

Read the poem here: http://www.sweatywheels.com/Dransfield/rose.html

 

my groupie - Charles Bukowski

Humour is hard to do in poetry.  And I don’t necessarily mean the belly laughs of a stand-up comedian. Irony, understatement, hyperbole,  anything that can lighten the dead weight of seriousness in poetry is, in my view, a good thing. Bukowski did humour well. A little coarse most of the time and incorrect as hell but if you’re looking for someone to lower the tone – Hank’s your man. Levity is the quality this poem exemplifies.

Read the poem here: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/my-groupie/

 

Daddy - Sylvia Plath

I’ve always loved this poem. My affection only deepened when I came across a recording of Plath reading it aloud. Direct, passionate, unbalanced but perfectly poised at the same time. I love the incantation of the nursery rhyme juxtaposed with the dark, somewhat unsettling subject matter. Rhythm is the quality this poem highlights.

Read the poem here: http://www.internal.org/view_poem.phtml?poemID=356
Listen to it here: http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=6hHjctqSBwM

 

The Red Wheelbarrow - William Carlos Williams

This poem illustrates the quality of brevity, which I think is so important in poetry. Not a single word gone to waste, nothing explained, nothing left unsaid.

Read the poem here: http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88/wcw-red-wheel.html

 

In my craft or sullen art - Dylan Thomas

This poem says a lot about the craft of writing poetry and it also reminds us why not to write poetry:

Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages

The poem reads like free verse but is actually very structured. Each line has a regular number of syllables and stresses and the final two lines fall into a conventional iambic pattern. Form is an important quality of good poetry and this poem reminds me of that.

Read the poem here: http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/476.html

 

Some people - Rita Ann Higgins

What I like about this poem is that it’s engaged. Engaged with the real world struggles that real people are engaged with.  In my view there are too many poems that are lost in the miasma of all things me. On my desert(ed) island those poems would be banned, along with all other assortments of self-indulgence.

Read the poem here: http://dontstrayfromthepath.tumblr.com/post/63895893

 

Candles - Constantine P Cavafy

Luminosity is for me an important quality of good poetry. Cavafy remains one of my all time favourites. His poems illuminate the subject matter using everyday words and a directness that I very much admire.

Read the poem here: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/candles/

 

Flame PointJules Supervielle

Whenever I start a new notebook I handwrite this poem onto the first page. I love it but I struggle to explain why. Read it for yourself.

Flame Point
by Jules Supervielle translated by Allen Mandel Bawm

All his life
he loved to read
by candlelight
and often passed
his hand across
the flame
in order to
persuade
himself that he
was alive
was alive

And since the day
he died
he keeps
a burning candle
at his side
and yet
his hands
he hides

 

Sometime during eternity…Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Ferlingetti often manages to infuse his poems with lightness and humour and in my opinion these qualities go a long way in poetry. See, I’m already starting to repeat myself.

Read the poem here: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/sometime-during-eternity/

 

Looking for a monk and not finding himLi Po

Li Po brings all the qualities I like in poetry together in his work. Clear, lyrical, luminous, and engaged – all the qualities that modern Australian poetry for the most part eschews.

Read the poem here: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/looking-for-a-monk-and-not-finding-him/

 

Alan Jefferies reads at Riverbend Books alongside Jessika Tong, Anna Krien & Felicity Plunkett on Tuesday February 24. Details below:

Date: Tuesday 24 February
Location: Riverbend Books, 193 Oxford St. Bulimba
Time: Doors open for the event at 6pm for a 6:30pm start
Tickets: $10 available through Riverbend Books and include sushi and complimentary wine. To purchase tickets, call Riverbend Books on (07) 3899 8555 or book online at www.riverbendbooks.com.au

Spaces are limited so book early to avoid disappointment!

About Alan:

Alan Jefferies was born in Brisbane and grew up in Cleveland. He lived in Sydney and Coalcliff for much of the 80’s and 90’s and obtained degrees in Communication and Writing from the University of Technology, Sydney. In 1998 he moved to Hong Kong where he lived until 2007. With Kit Kelen and Mani Rao he started the spoken word reading OutLoud. In 2002 an anthology of work from these readings was published (Outloud: an anthology of poetry from Outloud readings, Hong Kong). He has published 5 collections of poetry, his most recent being Homage and other poems (Chameleon, 2007). He was recently an invited participant at the ‘Cairo International Forum of Arabic poetry’ and the ‘Tenth International Literature Festival’ in Romania. He now lives in Redland Bay. He keeps a musical alter ego at www.myspace.com/psychicstreetsweepers

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Desert(ed) Island Poems #1 – Ashley Capes

The concept of a Desert Island Disc is something that I have always loved. Which 10 songs would you take to a deserted island? Is it possible to take only 10!?

To take the concept into the world of poetry, this lost shark has asked some of his favourite poets to compile a list of of Desert(ed) Island Poems as a way of having each poet explore what makes a poem sing to them and to share with us the poems that are embedded in their mind, body and spirit.

First up in the series is Melbourne based poet Ashley Capes. So… which 10 poems will be sailing with Ashley to his deserted island?

Marriage – Gregory Corso

On the island, if I needed cheering up I would read Marriage. I first read this some years after getting married and found it highly amusing (though not because my experiences were similar, quite the opposite) but it has a very 1950s America vibe, the fear and the ‘goodness’ Corso is discussing does what good poetry often does – it examines and challenges social norms. And with great wit too.

Read it here: http://www.litkicks.com/Texts/Marriage.html

Hadda Be Playing on a Jukebox – Allen Ginsberg

I seem to enjoy repetition and variation within political or socially aware poetry and Ginsberg was one of the first poets to show me that these two could be combined. While Howl would last me longer on the desert island, Hadda Be Playing on a Jukebox is a little more direct and sets the bitterness and outrage in very familial settings (the kitchen, the basement, the streets, the factories, (workplace) the Mafia etc) and is all the more terrifying for it.

Read it here: http://www.musicfanclubs.org/rage/hadda.html

China – Bob Perelman

There’s so much room for the reader in this one. Every time I read it I can bring something else to the piece. Words, lines and images bounce off each other, bounce off my understandings (or lack thereof). When I looked at China in uni, there wasn’t a single student in the class that gave the same interpretation when asked to discuss it. 

Read it here: http://www.murgatroid.com/china.html

Pas de deux for Lovers – Michael Dransfield

This poem is so delicate, so complete. The language seems to have an echo of the Romantics but lacks pretension. It opens and closes strong. I’d take this to a desert island and feel both homesick and awed.  

Read it here: http://www.angelfire.com/me3/jackispage/lit/dransfield.html

I’d Shoot the Man – Gig Ryan

The words in this poem smoulder on the page. I first read it in a high school literature class and asked the teacher if we could study it. I was fascinated by the use of repetition and the honesty, the ‘lived’ nature of the narrative, and by the way gender was challenged in it. This really showed me that poetry could accomplish much.

Read it here: http://www.austlit.com/a/ryan-gig/doa.html

Clear – Viggo Mortensen

Someone at uni showed me Clear. I read it alone, and when I finished I actually said ‘wow.’ Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but when I thought about this I went back over a lot of work I’d read, and tried to recall what my initial reactions had been. There are very few poems that made me express my appreciation verbally, especially when there was no-one around to discuss it with.

Tyrannus Nix? – Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Although I don’t have what it takes to write good social commentaries, I would keep this on the desert island so I had something to aspire to. If I could be as insightful, cutting and energised as this, I would be pretty pleased. Tyrannus Nix? is impressive too, in the way it reclaims the oral nature of poetry – the poem is written like a letter (or a speech) directly to Nixon, but it’s an open letter for anyone reading it (not just America) and does something to thrust poetry into a public sphere. The poem operates in a political fashion and it’s so effective for it.

This is Just to Say – William Carlos Williams

Simplicity often strikes me – that and openness or accessibility. The purpose of language is to communicate, so I don’t always enjoy a writer attempting to communicate, then clouding meaning by making language opaque. (It could be argued that China is too opaque) I would take This is Just to Say as a reminder for myself, to remain open when I write.

Read it here: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15535

Edge – Sylvia Plath

Revisiting some of the poems I first read in high school to see which ones I still re-read, I remembered Edge. It seems to be one of her most restrained/resigned (language wise) yet evocative poems, especially in regards to the images and the way they’re linked to thoughts and biography.

Read it here: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/edge/

Watermelons – Charles Simic

In this poem the everyday becomes poetic – as is often the case in the hands of great writers. A clear and resonant image, the poem always makes me smile. And because it bears some similarities to haiku, I thought I would take this to a desert island in one folder, in case I wasn’t allowed to take a separate folder of 10 desert island haiku.

Read it here: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15260

Ashley Capes co-edits www.holland1945.net.au and recently completed studies in Arts and Education at Monash. His work has appeared in a range of Australian print and online publications and his first collection of poetry pollen and the storm was published with the assistance of Small Change Press in 2008.  

Find out more about Ashley and his work at:
 
http://www.mascarapoetry.com
http://www.styluspoetryjournal.com/main/master.asp?id=830
http://bluepepper.blogspot.com/2008/12/new-poetry-by-ashley-capes.html

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