Many poetry readers tend to think of Lawrence Ferlinghetti as another Allen Ginsberg, but his retrospective collection shows his uniqueness. Although he almost always uses free verse and frequently calls for a poetry of the people, his work is laden with allusions to art and references to French literature, and he laces his work with foreign words and quotations from the entire canon of Western literature, supplemented by some materials from the East. In these ways he is closer to Ezra Pound than to Ginsberg.
Still, the spirit of Ferlinghetti’s poetry is more in keeping with that of his brother Beat poets. Like theirs, his work is flavored with Eastern mysticism and natural religion, and like them he writes a number of travel poems which show the isolated observer making of himself a psychic vacuum so that the particularized environment of wherever—France, Italy, Holland—may impinge on him.
What is unique and exciting about Ferlinghetti is the intense energy of the work. There is a vitality in the poems as they hop like birds from one subject to a related one with no transition. They creatively blend dream and waking, day and night, to suggest some kind of transcendent cosmic unity, and therefore even when their subjects are negative, they barely contain a suppressed optimism. These poems validate Ferlinghetti’s definition of poetry as “the common carrier/ for the transportation of the public/ to higher places/ than other wheels can carry it.”
Sources for Further Study
Library Journal. CXVIII, October 1, 1993, p.98.
Washington Times. October 24, 1993, p. B6.