Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poetry may be looked on as a kind of travelog in which he has subjectively recorded choice experiences or montages from experience, often in a jazzlike or free-associative manner. For Ferlinghetti, “reality” itself becomes metaphorical, something he endows with mythical import, although he is not a poet given to hidden meanings. Although his poetry is largely autobiographical, an adequate analysis of his poetry is possible without thorough biographical knowledge; Ferlinghetti’s poetry is not excessively self-contained.
A Coney Island of the Mind
Whereas Ferlinghetti’s poems are for the most part historical, or autobiographical, Ferlinghetti the man is a myth, appearing as a cult hero, one of the original Beats. Sometimes a martyr to a cause, Ferlinghetti will occasionally insert his political ideologies into a poem for no apparent reason other than that they seem to fit his role. Halfway through the sometimes absurd, sometimes delightful poem “Underwear,” Ferlinghetti overextends his metaphor by becoming politically involved:
You have seen the three-color pictures with crotches encircled to show the areas of extra strength and three-way stretch promising full freedom of action
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