Lawrence Ferlinghetti

City Lights founder and prolific poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti appears in person to celebrate the release of his long-anticipated new book, Writing Across the Landscape: Travel Journals 1960-2010. Lawrence and editors Giada Diano and Matthew Gleeson read choice excepts from this extraordinary volume, which provides a panoramic portrait of art and life across the twentieth century, from Mexico to Morocco, Paris to Rome, and beyond. Ferlinghetti closes the evening reading his poem, “At Sea,” dedicated to Pablo Neruda. This event was packed, thanks to all who came out.

Over the course of an adventured-filled life, now in its tenth decade, Lawrence Ferlinghetti has been many things: a poet, painter, 87286100431850Lpacifist, publisher, courageous defender of free speech, and owner of San Francisco’s legendary City Lights bookstore. Now the man whose A Coney Island of the Mind  became a generational classic reveals yet another facet of his manifold talents, presenting here his travel journals, spanning over sixty years. Selected from a vast trove of mostly unpublished, handwritten notebooks, and edited by Giada Diano and Matthew Gleeson, Writing Across the Landscape becomes a transformative work of social, cultural, and literary history.

Beginning with Ferlinghetti’s account of serving as a commanding officer on a Navy sub-chaser during D-Day, Writing Across the Landscape dramatically traverses the latter half of the twentieth century. For those only familiar with his poetry, these pages present a Lawrence Ferlinghetti never before encountered, an elegant prose stylist and tireless political activist who was warning against the pernicious sins of our ever-expansive corporate culture long before such thoughts ever seeped into mainstream consciousness.

Yet first and foremost we see an inquisitive wanderer whose firsthand accounts of people and places are filled with pungent descriptions that animate the landscapes and cultures he encounters. Evoking each journey with a mixture of travelogue and poetry as well as his own hand-drawn sketches, Ferlinghetti adopts the role of an American bard, providing panoramic views of the Cuban Revolution in Havana, 1960, and a trip through Haiti, where voodoo and Catholicism clash in cathedrals “filled with ulcerous children’s feet running from Baron Hunger.” Reminding us that poverty is not only to be found abroad, Ferlinghetti narrates a Steinbeck-like trip through California’s Salton Sea, a sad yet exquisitely melodic odyssey from motel to motel, experiencing the life “between cocktails, between filling stations, between buses, trains, towns, restaurants, movies, highways leading over horizons to another Rest Stop…Sad hope of all their journeys to Nowhere and back in dark Eternity.”

Particularly memorable is his journey across the Trans-Siberian Railway in 1957, which turns into a Kafkaesque nightmare in which he, lacking a proper visa, is removed from a Japan-bound freighter and forced back across the Russian steppe to Moscow, encountering a countryside more Tolstoy than Khrushchev, while nearly dying in the process. Readers are also treated to glimpses of Ezra Pound, “looking like an old Chinese sage,” whom Ferlinghetti espies in Italy, as well as fellow Beat legends Allen Ginsberg and a dyspeptic William S. Burroughs, immured with his cats in a grotto-like apartment in London.

Embedded with facsimile manuscript pages and an array of poems, many never before published, Writing Across the Landscape revives an era when political activism coursed through the land and refashions Lawrence Ferlinghetti, not only as a seminal poet but as an historic and singular American voice.

Interview with Eric Baus

Eric Baus stopped by City Lights to talk about his new poetry book, The Tranquilized Tongue

We celebrated the release of The Tranquilized Tongue, the latest in the City Lights Spotlight Poetry series! The Tranquilized Tongue is the 11th installment in the City Lights Spotlight Series, which brings attention to established and up-and-coming innovative American poets.TranquilizedTongue

In the tradition of French poets like Francis Ponge, Pierre Reverdy, and René Char, The Tranquilized Tongue offers a series of prose meditations in the form of surrealist declaratives, each sentence unfolding like an alchemical riddle in which sounds, images, and figures appear, dissolve, and re-emerge to offer a glimpse of a complex unconscious roiling below the surface of everyday reality. Sometimes a paragraph, sometimes a sentence, occasionally just a fragment, each poem in The Tranquilized Tongue is a portal to new perspective on the everyday materials of reality as constituted through language itself. The postmodern classicism of language poetry meets the modernist romanticism of surrealism to startling effect in Baus’s cabinet of curiosities. The eleventh volume of the City Lights Spotlight Poetry Series, The Tranquilized Tongue places Baus alongside such contemporary purveyors of the marvelous and speculative as Andrew Joron and Will Alexander.

Five Questions with Eric Baus

Praise for The Tranquilized Tongue:

“The poems comprising The Tranquilized Tongue propose a unique blend of Persian miniature and habanero pepper. The book is aburst with unremitting predication, each poem a merciless thought machine.”—Nathaniel Mackey

“For over a decade now, Eric Baus has been one of the leading practitioners of a new kind of poem, one that draws as equally on the legacy of surrealism, the nouveau roman, and even the language poets, as it does on the Deep Listening practice of Pauline Oliveros, Alvin Lucier’s forays into resonant sound, the films of Charles and Ray Eames, and the voiceover of Sir David Attenborough narrating our insect and animal worlds. The Tranquilized Tongue speaks to us in a music capable of condensing geologic time into that of a microtonal interval: weird, warped, a little wobbly on its newly-hatched legs, this is a book where the word The will follow you like a gosling.”—Noah Eli Gordon

“Special objects in our multiple world–from eggs to kings, from bees to caskets, from wings to statues–spawn themselves with other teeming objects in a fertile generation of aphoristic actions calmed by the clarity of prose poems framed as linked short stories. The scintillating tensions between febrile nouns, adjectival properties, and active claims all in their phonemic bliss create an elegant surrealism charged with the primary mystery of Baus’s lexicon.”—Rachel Blau DuPlessis, author of Drafts