FERLINGHETTI’S GREATEST POEMS
By Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Edited by Nancy J. Peters.
144 pp. New Directions. $16.95.
ONE DAY WHEN I was about 14 or 15 and wandering the aisles of a bookstore in Southern California, my eyes were drawn to “Endless Life,” a collection of poems by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I grew up in a conservative household in an even more conservative neighborhood, and I doubt I’d had any exposure, up till that point, to Ferlinghetti and his transcontinental, transcendental comrades known as the Beats. All I knew, as I flipped through the book, was that the words were bouncing around the page:
But how does Ferlinghetti’s work hold up now? (Ferlinghetti himself has held up well. At press time, he is still alive and nearing his 99th birthday.) As a publisher, a patron of the arts and a free-speech pioneer, he has been rightly celebrated for decades; he played a crucial role in the defense of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl,” even winning an obscenity case for daring to publish that zeitgeist-capturing incantation.