Ferlinghetti, Lawrence (Vol. 10)
Ferlinghetti, Lawrence 1919(?)–
An American poet, editor, playwright, essayist, novelist, and translator, Ferlinghetti was a leader of the Beat movement and the American poetry revival of the fifties that aimed to bring poetry to a wider reading public. Much of his work is political and satirical, portraying reality as fragmented and protesting violence. Strongly influenced by French existentialism and the surrealists, he has been compared with Jacques Prévert, Paul Eluard, and e.e. cummings. Ferlinghetti's poetry is often improvisational, with the spontaneous quality of jazz. He uses flexible, spoken rhythms, as well as frequent allusions to literature and art. (See also CLC, Vols. 2, 6, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 5-8, rev. ed.)
Ferlinghetti has always been addicted to spiritual posturings, to invoking the names of the gods, saints and bards in phrases such as Time magazine uses for captions, and to digging their ineffable incarnations in the apparitions of old men and boys, misfits and thugs and flowers and bums. This is San Francisco-style sentimentality, largely his own creation.
He writes merely endless sentences of flat prose, with here and there a Tibetan or Arabic formula, a prayer phrase, and breaks them up into panting lines. Headlines, that is, blown up and made to sound as significant, as portentous as headlines shouted or keened out over a mike in concert with amplified sitars and bongos and young people rocking and whining, delirious with noise and smoke and bemused by the desire to trip along. Public poetry, publicly performed.
Everywhere today the voice of the inauthentic is heard in the land, and Ferlinghetti is its prophet. [The] six poems [in "The Secret Meaning of Things"] wander lonely as a cloud through Boston, San Francisco, Germany and Russia, offering visions reminiscent of the first 15 seconds of TV commercials, before the product comes on, visions of blurbs commented on sententiously by an egotistic trifler, never a phrase or idea or rhythm original with himself.
Jascha Kessler, "Sentimental Trifles in Frisco Vein," in The Los Angeles Times (copyright, 1969, Los...
(The entire section is 230 words.)
Crale D. Hopkins
[Lawrence Ferlinghetti deserves] disentanglement from the old Beat-poet characterization. His poetry cannot be dismissed either as protest polemic or as incoherently personalized lyric. His craftsmanship, thematics, and awareness of the tradition justify a further consideration. (p. 60)
By the time his later works were published, Ferlinghetti had been firmly fixed by and large in the Beat school and received little more individual attention. (p. 61)
The subject of the doctoral thesis Ferlinghetti wrote at the University of Paris was "The Symbolic City in Modern Literature." His poetry reflects this acquaintance with modern European and American literature, and this constitutes the first point at which Ferlinghetti departs from the Beat stereotype…. [In] Ferlinghetti's poetry there is no bitter anti-intellectualism [as some critics found in Beat poetry] but rather a knowledge and appreciation of traditional literary materials which are integrated into his own verse.
A second generalization has it that all Beat literature is either crippled by disengagement and a poverty of feeling…. Ferlinghetti, however, wrote some of the most sensitive lyrics of the last twenty years. In A Coney Island Of The Mind, Poem 19 … is in part a criticism of the usual Beat stance, bemoaning
this unshaved today
(The entire section is 1429 words.)
C. R. Metzger
Ferlinghetti's "Autobiography" [one of seven "oral messages" in A Coney Island of the Mind] is a highly and mockingly-learned riddle poem…. [It] is a witty testament to Ferlinghetti's seriously held poetic faith….
[One] cannot fully appreciate the poem without knowing that Ferlinghetti has written a "pied" or medley poem after the riddling manner of the ancient Celtic unofficial bards or minstrels, and that it contains allusions not only to ancient Celtic poetic history, but also to even more ancient pre-Cymric, old-Goidelic, myth. These are suggested by the presence of individual lines in Ferlinghetti's poem which are taken exactly from English translations of three ancient Celtic riddle poems. These three poems are 1) the Hanes Taliesen (The Tale of Taliesin), 2) the Câd Goddeu (The Battle of the Trees), and 3) the Song of Amergin. (p. 25)
[It is necessary] to explain what these lines "plagiarized" from translations of three ancient Celtic poems are doing in Ferlinghetti's "Autobiography," a poem presumably, and indeed actually, about Ferlinghetti himself, as person, and as poet. I suggest that the explanation lies in the nature and circumstances of these three ancient poems themselves, more particularly as they relate to the bardic tradition of thirteenth century Wales, and to the antecedent traditions of Celtic bards in the sixth century, and beyond that to the tradition of the...
(The entire section is 1430 words.)
In his prose volume, Her, Lawrence Ferlinghetti explores the dynamics of artistic consciousness and control. He posits as his protagonist Andy Raffine, who is seeking his own unique identity, symbolized by his search for the enigmatic "her" of the title. His quest is frustrated by his reluctant recognition of his role as a fictional character and by his vulnerability to the forces of illusion. In addition, Ferlinghetti allows the relationship between the author and his creation to image his view of the relationship between God and man. (p. 40)
Her focuses on the interrelationship of three figures—the author; a theoretically unique and autonomous literary character; and the hybrid character resulting from the imposition of the author's experiences, fantasies, and language on the "pure" character…. The pattern of Ferlinghetti's approach closely resembles Robbe-Grillet's description of his own literary technique: "Not only is it a man who, in my novels for instance, describes everything, but it is the least neutral, the least impartial of men: always engaged, on the contrary, in an emotional adventure of the most obsessive kind, to the point of often distorting his vision and of producing imaginings close to delirium." Raffine is in precisely this delirious stage, occupying a carrefour where reality and illusion intersect and impinge on one another. Manifestations of fantasy and actuality become...
(The entire section is 1281 words.)