Lawrence Ferlinghetti
New York: New Directions, 1958
64 pages.

Comments by Bob Corbett
June 2011

In this small volume Ferlinghetti starts out in San Francisco and ends up back there in the end. In between he travels east in the U.S., to Europe and South America. He is in an inquiring mood and an angry mood. The U.S. is too preoccupied with military, especially atomic force, the culture is too closed and unbending. He wants to experience a larger world, not only geographically, but in perceptions, especially leaning toward drug-induced states of consciousness. He pleads for much great sexual freedom, especially freeing sex from “love” in the conventional sense.

His poetry is for me mixed. At times he is creative, insightful, original, thought provoking and just plain fun. At other times he is a ranter, off some deep end of the spectrum of communication into a private world of rage. Fortunately for this reader, more of the poetry offered was in the first mode rather than the second.

Another feature of his poetry is his wide knowledge of other poets and the clever ways in which he like to work references, some quite subtle, into his work. He begins his journey in much the way he sees Walt Whitman beginning his. However, even though he writes a bit here and there about the great mass of farm lands and small towns, it is indicative of his view of the world that he starts out in the first poem in San Francisco and the second poem he has already arrived in Greenwich Village in New York City! This is not only geographically startling, it is intellectually quite telling.

In these poems he is in concerned with many issues touching the political world of his day. He pleads for the impeachment of President Eisenhower for being too wedded to nuclear power, he celebrates Castro’s success in Cuba, and constantly harps on the need for peace rather than power to advance the cause of the human species.

I didn’t find the poetry of this volume quite as powerful or overall attractive as I did his Coney Island of the Mind. I had read both of these works when I was in college and they were first published, This is the first time since that I have returned to this little volume. While I was a bit disappointed that it didn’t move me as much as his more famous volume, it was a challenging and worthwhile read.

Bob Corbett


Becoming Reading Thinking Journals


Bob Corbett