|Lawrence Ferlinghetti, distinguished American poet, artist, and founder of City Lights Booksellers and Publishers, has died in San Francisco on March 24 at the age 101 years old.
Here is the tribute given him by City Lights:
Ferlinghetti was instrumental in democratizing American literature by creating (with Peter D. Martin) the country’s first all-paperback bookstore in 1953, jumpstarting a movement to make diverse and inexpensive quality books widely available. He envisioned the bookstore as a “Literary Meeting Place,” where writers and readers could congregate to shares ideas about poetry, fiction, politics, and the arts. Two years later, in 1955, he launched City Lights Publishers with the objective of stirring an “international dissident ferment.” His inaugural edition was the first volume of the City Lights Pocket Poets Series, which proved to be a seminal force in shaping American poetry.
Ferlinghetti is the author of one of the best-selling poetry books of all time, A Coney Island of the Mind, among many other works. He continued to write and publish new work up until he was 100 years old, and his work has earned him a place in the American canon.
For over sixty years, those of us who have worked with him at City Lights have been inspired by his knowledge and love of literature, his courage in defense of the right to freedom of expression, and his vital role as an American cultural ambassador. His curiosity was unbounded and his enthusiasm was infectious, and we will miss him greatly.
We intend to build on Ferlinghetti’s vision and honor his memory by sustaining City Lights into the future as a center for open intellectual inquiry and commitment to literary culture and progressive politics. Though we mourn his passing, we celebrate his many contributions and give thanks for all the years we were able to work by his side.
Meanwhile, readers are encouraged to read our review of Ferlinghetti’s book, “Little Boy,” in Bay Crossings: