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A Coney Island of the Mind

4.16 of 5 stars 4.16  ·  rating details  ·  7,795 ratings  ·  252 reviews
Ferlinghetti is a national treasure, and his voice has become part of our collective conscience. Some of his most famous poems from this collection such as "I Am Waiting" and "Junkman's Obbligato" were created for jazz accompaniment. Written in the conservative post-war 1950s, his poems still resonate, as they will continue to resonate, with a joyful anti-establishment fer ...more
Hardcover, 96 pages
Published April 17th 2008 by New Directions (first published 1958)
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Feb 11, 2011 Maureen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: poetry
In looking at the book page for this book, I am struck by how many people chose to include one of Ferlinghetti's poems. In my opinion, what that says is that although some of the slanguage and cultural references may be a bit dated, these poems still resonate with people, me included. I bought my copy of this book at City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, sat, and read it from cover to cover. Almost everyone who reads this book will find a poem that will stay with them a long, long time.
Renee Alberts
my dad gave me his beat-up copy of Coney Island when i was in junior high, and showed me "11" the poem he'd recited for his forensics team when he was in high school. that poetry could be that natural, funny and defiant shocked me, and i've been hooked ever since.

this one is up there on the list of books that changed my life.
Jan 25, 2008 Granny rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: beats and cool cats of any age
One of the greatest influences of my teen years. Meeting and working with him in 1984 was an experience I'll never forget. Yeah, I still have my "ancient" copy of this book from the 1950's!

In Golden Gate Park that day
a man and his wife were coming along
thru the enormous meadow
which was the meadow of the world
He was wearing green suspenders
and carrying an old beat-up flute
in one hand
while his wife had a bunch of grapes
which she kept handing out
to various squirrels
as if each
were a little joke

And then the two of them came on
thru the enormous meadow
which was the meadow of the world
and then
at a very still spot where the trees dreamed
and seemed to hav
the guy wrote a poem where marc chagall's mom is yelling at him.

"but he
kept right on

i love how sweet ferlinghetti's poems are. i don't think he means them to be. but they are.

review of
Lawrence Ferlinghetti's A Coney Island of the Mind
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 12, 2011

Rereading A Coney Island of the Mind for what might be the 1st time in 41 yrs felt like going home again - by wch I mean that it feels like something that I'm very familiar w/ - even though I'm not. There's always the possibility that when one reads something in one's 'formative yrs' that it becomes deeply instantiated. Rereading this felt strangely comfortable - like being w/ an old fr
in honor of one of my favorite beat poets, i will write this review without touching the shift key
and, of course, my thumb readily on the space tab

a collection of interesting visual poetry

don't need to snap your fingers or wear black

or have a set of bongos

fluid writing, cool fluidly throughout

read over and over
and over


Erik Graff
Jul 02, 2009 Erik Graff rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Beats and wanna-bes
Recommended to Erik by: Rachel Nelson
Shelves: poetry
Throughout much of my youth I bore fealty to a single woman. In junior high it was Nancy, half a foot taller than me, she of the checked skirts. In high school and into college it was Rachel, artist, fabricator of her own clothing, the girl down the block. Nothing came of these relationships in the ordinary sense. We were friends, but the passion wasn't reciprocated. I never really expected it would be.

Rachel had a custom during my last two years of secondary school of having folks over for Cons
Poetry. I like Ferlinghetti for his rhythm, humor, and creative use of white space. Sometimes, like ee cummings, Ferlinghetti seems to be constructing something on the page that makes sense only to him, but occasionally he hits on a structure that perfectly enhances the meaning of a poem. He uses this to great effect in works like "Johnny Nolan has a patch on his ass," where the text mirrors the rhythm and action of the poem.

This volume is an odd mix of political, sexual, and comical. Trains mak
Matthew Gallant
This was my first book of poetry. A gift from my college professor uncle. I read it right away, eager to break away from the school-taught (to this day!) Frost/Poe/Dickinson monotony. Don't get me wrong, they were great, but I suspected there was more out there and I was right. Ferlinghetti was the beginning for me. Incidentally, Uncle John also gave me a little text called "Revenge of the Lawn," which I just finally cracked last week after it stayed in storage since high school. Sorry, Richard, ...more
Lawrence Ferlinghetti might be one of the lesser known Beats, which is unfortunate. Although I generally do not like poetry, this is one book that's been on my shelf since high school. My admiration for Ferlinghetti resulted in visiting his City Lights Bookstore when I was in San Francisco ten or so years ago. I had hoped to run into him, but was not successful; however, just being in his world was enough for me. I periodically page through this book and re-read his poems and take pleasure in th ...more
Oct 29, 2007 kate rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: poetry
i slipped this from a top shelf of my parents' floor to ceiling bookshelves when i was 12 years old. i lay on the floor and fell head over heels in love with these words. there is an undeniable current within these pages and these poems stay within the recess of your mind.

"only the next day she has bad teeth and really hates poetry"

the well-worn copy i keep within reach is that same copy i slipped from that shelf.
Surreal, romantic, hopeful and somewhat despairing. Some primo pieces of work evocative of the psychology of the latter 50s to early 60s, with the Cold War and the onset of the hippie movement.
Mar 21, 2008 Faith-Anne rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people just getting interested in poetry
Shelves: my-favorites, poetry
This is a perfect book for people interested in exploring the world of poetry. I know quite a few people who got hooked on the genre through this book.
Not reading this is UnAmerican. Really.
The collection is divided into three parts: A Coney Island of the Mind; Oral Messages; and Poems from Pictures of the Gone World. In the first and third part, readers are treated to Ferlinghetti's trademark style, with lines that appear to have been told to stand on either side of the page...

Constantly risking absurdity
and death
whenever he performs
above the heads
of his audience
the poet like an acrobat
climbs on rime
to a high wire of his own making
(pg. 30)

(to see the poem in all its glory,
I am leading a quiet life
in Mike’s Place every day
I hear America singing
in the Yellow Pages.

I am leading a quiet life
in Mike’s Place every day
watching the champs
of the Dante Billiard Parlor
and the French pinball addicts.
I am leading a quiet life
on lower East Broadway.
I am an American.
I was an American boy.
I read the American Boy Magazine
and became a boy scout
in the suburbs.
I thought I was Tom Sawyer
catching crayfish in the Bronx River
and imagining the Mississippi.
I had a baseba
When I was in college (back when dinosaurs ruled the earth), I fell in love with this volume of Beat Generation poetry. I did some readings of Ferlinghetti on the college speech & debate circuit, and he helped me bring home some trophies. I guess you could say we were partners of a sort.

Ferlinghetti was not merely a poet. He also owned the Harbor Lights bookstore (I think that's the name) and ran a small press. When Ginsberg was trying to publish "Howl," Ferlinghetti was the only one with th
I had never read Ferlinghetti before, and I bought this solely because of its title. Coney Island? OF THE MIND? Well, it had a lot of that quality. Titleless poems that bounced around, colorful and chiming. It was noises and images and an America you’d hope to find out on the east coast boardwalk of the great arcade known as Coney Island. It wasn’t exactly beatnik sleight of hand, nor was it the slow-mouthed observations of this country. It was a mixture of a man reading at a jazz club, a man ju ...more
Jul 30, 2008 Dana rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: New-age hippies, members of the Beat movement, angsty teens, and lovers of contemporary poetry.
Before reading this book as part of a research project on a poet of my choice, I admit that I only read poetry for leisure if said poetry was written by Edgar Allan Poe.

Ferlinghetti was not what I had anticipated when I first chose him as my research subject, but I quickly decided to like him anyway. His poetry is decidedly different, especially in terms of line structure and subject matter. He was a prominent member of the Beat movement of the 1950's, and his poetry reflects that in the form of
conducting a symphony of words
cooking a recipe of ideas
pop culture
and counter culture
and subculture
and high culture
and low culture
and Western culture

Less writing
and more pulling words together
finding the pattern
to the inner eye

He sees with a critical eye
and cuts
and skewers the lies
of the world around us
as true today as in 1950

Only read this if you can stand
him reaching into your brain
the Coney Island of your mind
and spreading it on the streets of you
Jan 31, 2014 S.B. rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers who miss the city.
Recommended to S.B. by: Joshua Lee
Shelves: poetry
I'm most attracted by poems that read as if they were one long sentence, where the words just keep going and going. These are very much like that. There's no stop to them.
A beat classic. Out of all the beat poets I have read, I feel the closest affinity, in terms of style, to Ferlinghetti. There are some marvellous poems in here. I also like the old-west 'saloon' style font that he uses throughout. It goes well with the theme of the title - Coney Island of the Mind is "a kind of circus of the soul" (Ferlinghetti's words himself).
Jul 30, 2008 kate rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: beat fans
I am still awaiting the rebirth of wonder.

where I am, it's not happening.

it might be location, i may have to move closer to the wonder.

san francisco is closer to the wonder.
ferlinghetti was the beat poet whose poems appealed to me the most. concrete playfulness and whimsy, not as heavy as ginsberg, without requiring the commitment of kerouac.

This is, by far, my favorite collection of poetry. The poems speak to me more than any others. In particular, I enjoy the humorous poem "Dog" and "I am Waiting," a repetitive poem of longing, though there is not a bad poem contained in this work. This book turned me on to Ferlinghetti and also to the works of Henry Miller, who strongly influenced the poet.
I don't read much poetry of my own accord, which maybe isn't something an English major should admit, but I liked this little book. The middle section of "jazz poetry" was dated in the worst ways and pretty grating, but everything else was good. Ferlinghetti's poetry is interesting mix of lyricism, collage-style imagery and matter-of-fact statements.
Constantly risking absurdity
and death
whenever he performs
above the heads of his audience
the poet like an acrobat
climbs on rime
to a highwire of his own making

Who doesn't love that? I've never connected with poetry the way I have with Lawrence Ferlenghetti's. I was hooked from the first poem in this collection. His poems are timeless.
i wish there was special punctuation that could convey my utter love for this small book. i went to the library to find a copy, and in the front cover says it was given as a gift to the school by ira gershwin; i was a mess with weird excitement.
Sarah Rosenberger
At times, the dated slang and politics and notes about jazz accompaniments, etc make this feel almost like a parody, but it still ends up working - partly as a snapshot of a certain time, and partly as good, universal stuff.
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A prominent voice of the wide-open poetry movement that began in the 1950s, Lawrence Ferlinghetti has written poetry, translation, fiction, theater, art criticism, film narration, and essays. Often concerned with politics and social issues, Ferlinghetti’s poetry countered the literary elite's definition of art and the artist's role in the world. Though imbued with the commonplace, his poetry canno ...more
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“I once started out
to walk around the world
but ended up in Brooklyn,
that Bridge was too much for me.”
“I am waiting for the war to be fought
which will make the world safe for anarchy”
More quotes…