Ferlinghetti: A Birthday & A Favorite Beatnik Poem

According to Garrison Keillor, March 24  was “the birthday of the poet, publisher, and bookstore owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti, born in Yonkers, New York (1919). . . .
He went to college at the University of North Carolina and then joined the Navy during World War II, where he was the commander of a 110-foot ship. . . .

After serving in the war he moved to San Francisco where he decided to open a bookstore. He named it City Lights after the Charlie Chaplin movie because he said:
‘Chaplin’s character represents for me … the very definition of a poet. … A poet, by definition, has to be an enemy of the State. If you look at Chaplin films, he’s always being pursued by the police. That’s why he’s still such a potent symbol in the cinema — the little man against the world.’

In 1958 he also published his own collection of poetry, A Coney Island of the Mind, which shocked everyone by going through 28 printings and selling 700,000 copies in the United States alone. By the end of the 1960s it was the best-selling book ever published by a living American poet.
Ferlinghetti was one of the few poets in the United States who has never held a job at a university, never received government funding, and never attended an MLA conference. He never won a Pulitzer. He died in 2021 at the age of 101.”

Here’s this blogger’s favorite poem by him, which reminds me that unbelievers sometimes write the best lines, which must be one reason why God made so many of them. [Note: the original version has the lines spread all across the page, in true Beatnik style, but my computer declines to cooperate with such pre-hipster foolishness.]

Sometime During Eternity . . .

BY LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI

Sometime during eternity
some guys show up
and one of them
who shows up real late
is a kind of carpenter
from some square-type place
like Galilee
and he starts wailing
and claiming he is hip
to who made heaven
and earth
and that the cat
who really laid it on us
is his Dad

And moreover
he adds
It’s all writ down
on some scroll-type parchments
which some henchmen
leave lying around the Dead Sea somewheres
a long time ago
and which you won’t even find
for a coupla thousand years or so
or at least for
nineteen hundred and fortyseven
of them
to be exact
and even then
nobody really believes them
or me
for that matter

You’re hot
they tell him
And they cool him

They stretch him on the Tree to cool

And everybody after that
is always making models
of this Tree
with Him hung up
and always crooning His name
and calling Him to come down
and sit in
on their combo
as if he is the king cat
who’s got to blow
or they can’t quite make it

Only he don’t come down
from His Tree
Him just hang there
on His Tree
looking real Petered out
and real cool
and also
according to a roundup
of late world news
from the usual unreliable sources
real dead

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