On March 24, 1919, Lawrence Ferlinghetti was born in Yonkers, New York. After spending his early childhood in France, he received his BA from the University of North Carolina, an MA from Columbia University, and a PhD from the Sorbonne.
During World War II he served in the US Naval Reserve and was sent to Nagasaki shortly after it was bombed. He married in 1951 and has one daughter and one son.
In 1953, Ferlinghetti and Peter Martin began to publish City Lights magazine. They also opened the City Lights Books Shop in San Francisco to help support the magazine. In 1955, they launched City Lights Publishing, a book-publishing venture. City Lights became known as the heart of the "Beat" movement, which included writers such as Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac. In 1956, Ferlinghetti published Allen Ginsberg's book Howl and Other Poems, which resulted in his being arrested by the San Francisco Police for publishing obscene work and a subsequent trial that gained international attention. At end, the judge concluded that Howl had "some redeeming social importance" and was not obscene, and Ferlighetti prevailed.
Ferlinghetti is the author of more than thirty books of poetry, including Time of Useful Consciousness (New Directions, 2012); Poetry as Insurgent Art (New Directions, 2007); Americus, Book I (New Directions, 2004); San Francisco Poems (City Lights Books, 2002); How to Paint Sunlight (New Directions, 2001); A Far Rockaway of the Heart (New Directions, 1997); These Are My Rivers: New & Selected Poems, 1955-1993 (New Directions, 1993); Over All the Obscene Boundaries: European Poems & Transitions (New Directions, 1984); Who Are We Now? (New Directions, 1976); The Secret Meaning of Things (New Directions, 1969); and A Coney Island of the Mind (New Directions, 1958). He has translated the work of a number of poets including Nicanor Parra, Jacques Prevert, and Pier Paolo Pasolini. Ferlinghetti is also the author of more than eight plays and of the novels Love in the Days of Rage (Overlook, 1988) and Her (New Directions, 1966).
About his work, the critic Barbara Berman wrote, "Ferlinghetti is a tonic for a world thirsting for the loving outrage and energetic reverence that helped reignite and sustain the enterprise of bard-fueled citizenship."
In 1994, San Francisco renamed a street in Ferlinghetti's honor. He was also named the first poet laureate of San Francisco in 1998. His other awards and honors include the lifetime achievement award from the National Book Critics Circle in 2000, the Frost Medal in 2003, and the National Book Foundation's Literarian Award in 2005, presented for "outstanding service to the American literary community.”
He lives in San Francisco, California.
Open Eye, Open Heart (New Directions, 1973)
Back Roads to Far Places (New Directions, 1971)
The Mexican Night (New Directions, 1970)
Tyrannus Nix? (New Directions, 1969)
The Secret Meaning of Things (New Directions, 1969)
Routines (New Directions, 1964)
Unfair Arguments with Existence (New Directions, 1963)
Starting from San Francisco (New Directions, 1961)
Her (New Directions, 1960)
A Coney Island of the Mind (New Directions, 1958)
Pictures of the Gone World (City Lights, 1955)