Beat poet, publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti dies at 101

Poet, publisher and bookseller Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who helped launch and perpetuate the Beat movement, has died. He was 101.

Ferlinghetti died at his San Francisco home on Monday, his son, Lorenzo Ferlinghetti, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. The cause was lung disease.

He said his father died “in his own room,” holding their hands “as he took his last breath.”

Lorenzo Ferlinghetti said his father loved Italian food and the restaurants in the North Beach neighbourhood where he made his home and founded his famous bookstore. He had received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine last week and was a month shy of turning 102.

Ferlinghetti was known for his City Lights bookstore in San Francisco, an essential meeting place for the Beats and other bohemians in the 1950s and beyond.

Ferlinghetti, left, with Beat poet Allen Ginsberg in South Kensington, London, on June 11, 1965. Ferlinghetti published Ginsberg’s poem Howl in 1956. (M. Stroud/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Its publishing arm released books by Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and many others. The most famous release was Ginsberg’s anthemic poem Howl. It led to a 1957 obscenity trial that broke new ground for freedom of expression.

In that trial, Ferlinghetti was accused of printing “indecent writings,” but he was later acquitted. The poem went on to become one of the 20th century’s most well-known pieces of writing.

Ferlinghetti published his first collection, Pictures of the Gone World, in 1955, a small-run series of his early poems. He followed up with A Coney Island of the Mind in 1958, which went on to sell more than one million copies and established Ferlinghetti as a serious author. 


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