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A Coney Island of the Mind

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The title of this book is taken from Henry Miller's "Into the Night Life" and expresses the way Lawrence Ferlinghetti felt about these poems when he wrote them during a short period in the 1950's—as if they were, taken together, a kind of Coney Island of the mind—a kind of circus of the soul.

93 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1958

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About the author

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

200 books599 followers
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 cannot be simply described as polemic or personal protest, for it stands on his craftsmanship, thematics, and grounding in tradition.

Ferlinghetti was born in Yonkers in 1919, son of Carlo Ferlinghetti who was from the province of Brescia and Clemence Albertine Mendes-Monsanto. Following his undergraduate years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he served in the U.S. Navy in World War II as a ship's commander. He received a Master’s degree from Columbia University in 1947 and a Doctorate de l’Université de Paris (Sorbonne) in 1950. From 1951 to 1953, when he settled in San Francisco, he taught French in an adult education program, painted, and wrote art criticism. In 1953, with Peter D. Martin (son of Carlo Tresca) he founded City Lights Bookstore, the first all-paperbound bookshop in the country, and by 1955 he had launched the City Lights publishing house.

The bookstore has served for half a century as a meeting place for writers, artists, and intellectuals. City Lights Publishers began with the Pocket Poets Series, through which Ferlinghetti aimed to create an international, dissident ferment. His publication of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl & Other Poems in 1956 led to his arrest on obscenity charges, and the trial that followed drew national attention to the San Francisco Renaissance and Beat movement writers. (He was overwhelmingly supported by prestigious literary and academic figures, and was acquitted.) This landmark First Amendment case established a legal precedent for the publication of controversial work with redeeming social importance.

Ferlinghetti’s paintings have been shown at various galleries around the world, from the Butler Museum of American Painting to Il Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome. He has been associated with the international Fluxus movement through the Archivio Francesco Conz in Verona. He has toured Italy, giving poetry readings in Roma, Napoli, Bologna, Firenze, Milano, Verona, Brescia, Cagliari, Torino, Venezia, and Sicilia. He won the Premio Taormino in 1973, and since then has been awarded the Premio Camaiore, the Premio Flaiano, the Premio Cavour. among others. He is published in Italy by Oscar Mondadori, City Lights Italia, and Minimum Fax. He was instrumental in arranging extensive poetry tours in Italy produced by City Lights Italia in Firenze. He has translated from the italian Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Poemi Romani, which is published by City Lights Books. In San Francisco, his work can regularly be seen at the George Krevsky Gallery at 77 Geary Street.

Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind continues to be the most popular poetry book in the U.S. It has been translated into nine languages, and there are nearly 1,000,000 copies in print. The author of poetry, plays, fiction, art criticism, and essays, he has a dozen books currently in print in the U.S., and his work has been translated in many countries and in many languages. His most recent books are A Far Rockaway of the Heart (1997), How to Paint Sunlight (2001), and Americus Book I (2004) published by New Directions.

He has been the recipient of numerous prizes, including the Los Angeles Times’ Robert Kirsch Award, the BABRA Award for Lifetime Achievement, the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Award for Contribution to American Arts and Letters, the American Civil Liberties Union’s Earl Warren Civil Liberties Award. Ferlinghetti was named San Francisco’s first poet laureate.

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5 stars
5,076 (43%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 463 reviews
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.3k followers
February 23, 2021

This is one of the best-selling poetry books of all time, and, although that is no guarantee of poetic excellence—after all, Rod McKuen and Martin Farquar Tupper both sold a lot of books in their day—it is a sign that the author had his finger on the pulse of his time, that his work embodies the yearnings and anxiety of a particular age.

That is certainly true of Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind (1958). No other book so perfectly captured the zeitgeist of the ‘60’s counterculture, the optimism of the young radicals who would take this book into their hearts. Sure there were other poems, some by arguably better poets—the lyric (and ironic) Byronisms of Corso, the Shelleyan ecstasies of McClure, the prophetic lamentations of Ginsberg, the zen eclogues of Snyder—but none of the others embodied so perfectly their vision of their world: sceptical of all institutions, yet open to the experience of joy and suffering—with a painter’s eye, a mystic’s soul, and a lover’s heart.

The first third of the book, entitled “A Coney Island of the Mind,” contains a remarkable number of memorable individual passages:
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/… 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…

What could she say to the fantastic foolybear/ and what could she say to brother/ and what could she say/ to the cat with future feet/ and what could she say to mother…

Don’t let that horse/ eat that violin/ cried Chagall’s mother/ But he/ kept right on/ painting…

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...
The last third of the book, which contains the complete text of the earlier Pictures of The Gone World (reviewed earlier by me on Goodreads) is filled with passages which are equally memorable.

I think, though, that the best section of this book is the middle section “Oral Messages,” a name Ferlinghetti gives to the loosely structured poems “conceived specifically for jazz accompaniment.” Nothing evokes the leisure, hip, casual feel of the age better than these seven poems.

I will conclude with a passage from the “oral message” entitled “I am Waiting”:
I am waiting for Tom Swift to grow up
And I am waiting
for the American Boy
to take off Beauty’s clothes
and get on top of her
and I am waiting
for Alice in Wonderland
to retransmit to me
her total dream of innocence
and I am waiting
for Childe Roland to come
to the final darkest tower
and I am waiting
for Aphrodite
to grow live arms
at a final disarmament conference
in a new rebirth of wonder
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.3k followers
February 24, 2021
RIP, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 2/23/21, at 101, one of the great poets of my youth in the late sixties and early seventies, one of the Beats who was jailed on obscenity charges in 1956 for publishing Allen Ginsberg's Howl in his Pocket Poet's Series through San Francisco's City Lights Bookstore, one of the greatest bookstores in the world, which he co-founded in 1953.

I am waiting for my case to come up
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting for someone
to really discover America
and wail
and I am waiting for the discovery
of a new symbolic western frontier
and I am waitin
for the American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right
and I am waiting
for the Age of Anxiety
to drop dead. . .

This book was published in 1959 and never went out of print. Irreverent, "populist," carried around by many young people. In my undergraduate years I helped arrange to bring him to my small college to read poetry and he was terrific, sitting cross0legged on the floor and sometimes beating his bongos as he recited his and others' works. Before the reading several of us went to a Mexican restaurant in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Alma Latina, and as he sat down he ordered two beers and two complete enchilada dinners. I thought he was fun, insightful, hilarious, wild.

Here's one poem from the book, to get the flavor of the work:

The pennycandystore beyond the El
is where I first
fell in love
with unreality
Jellybeans glowed in the semi-gloom
of that september afternoon
A cat upon the counter moved among
the licorice sticks
and tootsie rolls
and Oh Boy Gum

Outside the leaves were falling as they died

A wind had blown away the sun

A girl ran in
Her hair was rainy
Her breasts were breathless in the little room

Outside the leaves were falling
and they cried
Too soon! too soon!

One of Ferlinghetti's best-known and most controversial poems, “Christ Climbed Down”:

Christ Climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
there were no rootless Christmas trees
hung with candycanes and breakable stars

Christ Climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
there were no gilded Christmas trees
and no tinsel Christmas trees
and no tinfoil Christmas trees
and no pink plastic Christmas trees
and no black Christmas trees
and no powderblue Christmas trees
hung with electric candles
and encircled by tin electric trains
and clever cornball relatives

Christ Climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no intrepid Bible salesman
covered the territory
in two-tone Cadillacs
and where no Sears Roebuck creches
complete with plastic babe in manger
arrived by parcel post
the babe by special delivery
and where no televised Wise Men
praised the Lord Calvert Whiskey

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year and ran away to where
no fat handshaking stranger
in a red flannel suit
and a fake white beard
went around passing himself off
as some sort of North Pole saint
crossing the desert to Bethlehem
in a Volkswagon sled
drawn by rollicking Adirondack reindeer
with German names
and bearing sacks of Humble Gifts
from Saks Fifth Avenue
for everybody’s imagined Christ child

Christ Climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no Bing Crosby Carollers
groaned of a tight Christmas
and where no Radio City angels
iceskated wingless
thru a winter wonderland
into a jinglebell heaven
daily at 8:30
with Midnight Mass matinees

Christ Climbed Down
from His bare Tree
this year
and softly stole away into
some anonymous Mary’s womb again
where in the darkest night
of everybody’s anonymous soul
He awaits again
an unimaginable
and impossibly
Immaculate Reconception
the very craziest
of Second Comings.

For his 100th birthday last year, he published a memoir about his growing up years in a--what else--crazy format.
Profile Image for Theo Logos.
611 reviews93 followers
January 15, 2023
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, man! The dude’s NAME is a poem!
He would sling and he would sing images and words that buzz and hum through your head and electrify your heart.
He could drop a phrase that was a poem by itself -

In a surrealist year
of sandwichmen and sunbathers

Cat, that line right there is the Most! The rest of the poem is nearly superfluous.
Or he could give you new rhythms to old songs, fresh eyes to reveal hidden blasphemies -

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 then, mid volume, he syncopates, with Oral Messages, poems written for experimental reading to jazz accompaniment -

I am waiting for the Second Coming
and I am waiting
for a religious revival
to sweep thru the state of Arizona
and I am waiting
for the Grapes of Wrath to be stored
and I am waiting
for them to prove
that God is really American
and I am seriously waiting
for Billy Graham and Elvis Presley
to exchange roles seriously

This is high test fuel, Baby! Vintage poetic wine as intoxicating now as when first written. Dig it!
Profile Image for Maureen.
726 reviews87 followers
February 12, 2011
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.
Profile Image for Jonfaith.
1,837 reviews1,343 followers
September 23, 2019
I too have drunk and seen
the spider

A perfect aside for a hot day after returning from holiday. I truly liked this much more than I do Ginsburg. I felt it aligning itself in step with O'Hara perhaps, a parallel solidity. As was the case with our sojourn to the Deep South I read this with an ear for Race. The time of its publication is close to when James Baldwin returned from exile, to pay his dues. (1955)

I liked Ferlinghetti's images, his reworking of Christian mythos.
The interplay with redemption and Santa Claus.
There's an urgency about being-in-a-place.
An understanding which places Baldwin and Heidegger side by side in earnest contemplation.
Author 4 books11 followers
October 30, 2007
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.
Profile Image for Granny.
123 reviews2 followers
January 26, 2008
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!
Profile Image for Adriana Scarpin.
1,366 reviews
May 15, 2016
I am Waiting

I am waiting for my case to come up
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting for someone
to really discover America
and wail
and I am waiting
for the discovery
of a new symbolic western frontier
and I am waiting
for the American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right
and I am waiting
for the Age of Anxiety
to drop dead
and I am waiting
for the war to be fought
which will make the world safe
for anarchy
and I am waiting
for the final withering away
of all governments
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Second Coming
and I am waiting
for a religious revival
to sweep thru the state of Arizona
and I am waiting
for the Grapes of Wrath to be stored
and I am waiting
for them to prove
that God is really American
and I am waiting
to see God on television
piped onto church altars
if only they can find
the right channel
to tune in on
and I am waiting
for the Last Supper to be served again
with a strange new appetizer
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for my number to be called
and I am waiting
for the Salvation Army to take over
and I am waiting
for the meek to be blessed
and inherit the earth
without taxes
and I am waiting
for forests and animals
to reclaim the earth as theirs
and I am waiting
for a way to be devised
to destroy all nationalisms
without killing anybody
and I am waiting
for linnets and planets to fall like rain
and I am waiting for lovers and weepers
to lie down together again
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Great Divide to be crossed
and I am anxiously waiting
for the secret of eternal life to be discovered
by an obscure general practitioner
and I am waiting
for the storms of life
to be over
and I am waiting
to set sail for happiness
and I am waiting
for a reconstructed Mayflower
to reach America
with its picture story and tv rights
sold in advance to the natives
and I am waiting
for the lost music to sound again
in the Lost Continent
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the day
that maketh all things clear
and I am awaiting retribution
for what America did
to Tom Sawyer
and I am waiting
for Alice in Wonderland
to retransmit to me
her total dream of innocence
and I am waiting
for Childe Roland to come
to the final darkest tower
and I am waiting
for Aphrodite
to grow live arms
at a final disarmament conference
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting
to get some intimations
of immortality
by recollecting my early childhood
and I am waiting
for the green mornings to come again
youth’s dumb green fields come back again
and I am waiting
for some strains of unpremeditated art
to shake my typewriter
and I am waiting to write
the great indelible poem
and I am waiting
for the last long careless rapture
and I am perpetually waiting
for the fleeing lovers on the Grecian Urn
to catch each other up at last
and embrace
and I am awaiting
perpetually and forever
a renaissance of wonder
Profile Image for Cheryl.
74 reviews95 followers
March 7, 2019
In Goya's greatest scenes we seem to see
the people of the world
exactly at the moment when
they first attained the title of
'suffering humanity'

We are the same people
only further from home
on freeways fifty lanes wide
on a concrete continent
spaced with bland billboards
illustrating imbecile illusions of happiness
Profile Image for Stef.
18 reviews1 follower
July 7, 2010
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


Profile Image for Masked .
115 reviews
February 20, 2008
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.

Profile Image for Erik Graff.
4,995 reviews1,104 followers
July 2, 2009
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 Constant Comment tea on her parent's front porch when the weather was good. The group was never very large as it normally only included those of us who would walk home together when classes were done. It did not include my older, political friends, some of whom were already in college. It did include some of those who were our suburb's counter-culture: pseudo-hippies, psuedo-beats, though we never used those terms, preferring "freaks" if anything.

I was loaned a copy of Ferlinghetti's poems on that porch one fine spring day shortly before graduation. Previously I'd only read a bit of Ginsberg, a poet who attracted both the artistic and the political types. Ferlinghetti was just a name to me, a representative of the older generations, a representative of the Beats.

Frankly, I wasn't much impressed, not like I had been with Ginsberg, not like I wss with the more conventional, and usually philosophic and/or romantic, poets we read in school.

I left Rachel and Park Ridge for college that late summer, staying faithful to the romantic ideal of her until another girl, a virtual stranger, contrived to impose her own romantic ideal and have her way with me. It was disappointing and I felt it an act of betrayal on my part. Rachel, presumably, was relieved.

This all comes back, incidentally, because I'm at the home of one of these old friends, the old, familial home in Park Ridge. His mother just died and I'm ostensibly helping him organize the house for potential sale. Ferlinghetti was in his room along with other memories.
Profile Image for Britannie.
13 reviews
May 18, 2008

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 have been waiting thru all time
for them
they sat down together on the grass
without looking at each other
and ate oranges
without looking at each other
and put the peels
in a basket which they seemed
to have brought for that purpose
without looking at each other

And then
he took his shirt and undershirt off
but kept his hat on
and without saying anything
fell asleep under it
And his wife just sat there looking
at the birds which flew about
calling to each other
in the stilly air
as if they were questioning existence
or trying to recall something forgotten

But then finally
she too lay down flat
and just lay there looking up
at nothing
yet fingering the old flute
which nobody played
and finally looking over
at him
without any particular expression
except a certain awful look
of terrible depression

Profile Image for Corey.
Author 78 books244 followers
April 14, 2021
I liked this even better at 65 than I did at 25.
Profile Image for Matt.
1,013 reviews651 followers
August 23, 2019

A slightly different take of mine about this book: https://thebaffler.com/latest/to-real...

Every bookish malcontent in the world gets all hot and bothered by the Beats, and that's fine, of course, but Lawrence Ferlinghetti is one of the major poets of the movement and he gets overlooked quite often.

In fact, there's a moment in this documentary I saw on him where he's at his 70th birthday or something and he's chatting with Gregory Corso. Corso's all shabby and grungy and resentful, a bitter minor voice if there ever was one, and he says something to Ferlinghetti to the effect of "Jack and Allen got famous, we didn't!" Which is of course, true, at least in a commercial sense, not to mention posterity.

Ferlinghetti nods and responds with admirable poise and grace: "I know. I don't mind."

What a classy guy. And the poems in this book are really really good. His learning and mastery of technique are there if you look for them, but his voice is broad and his meter is free. Also, compared to the guilt-ridden Kerouac and the notoriously orgiastic Ginsberg (not to mention the lurid Burroughs) Ferlinghetti is more of a man on the street, a fella you could drink absinthe with, and takes pleasure in the senses and the life force and has his political radicalism and eats it too.

Highly recommended, especially for people who are hep to the Beat jive but need to be given a wider perspective. Also the lack of pretentiousness and lyrical frankness is charming and nourishing. If you have the chance to listen to him read aloud, on a recording or youtube or something, please do so.
Profile Image for Marina.
92 reviews39 followers
October 21, 2020
'I am anxiously waiting
for the secret of eternal life to be discovered
by an obscure general practitioner
and save me forever from certain death
and I am waiting
for life to begin
and I am waiting
for the storms of life
to be over
and I am waiting
to set sail for happiness"
Profile Image for acompassforbooks.
84 reviews25 followers
November 5, 2018
Leggendo queste poesie sembra di perdersi in un lungo viaggio in cui, dopo aver condotto tutto quello che si pensava di essere al di la della propria comfort zone, ci si accorge della vastità del nostro mondo interiore e in quella scoperta si trova la ragione stessa per affrontare una nuova idea di ritorno e di casa.
Profile Image for Dan.
1,077 reviews52 followers
November 5, 2022
This was objectively an excellent book of poetry.

The poems 'I am Waiting' and 'Autobiography' in particular are real treasures while the poems in the rest of the collection are all relatable and many are also quite good.

I read a prose book years ago by Ferlinghetti and did not like it but I'm glad that I didn't give up on him as he is a fine poet.

5 stars
Profile Image for Tentatively, Convenience.
Author 16 books191 followers
November 12, 2011
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 friend that I can trust.

Ferlinghetti was probably the 1st 'rebel poet' I ever read. When I did so, in the early 1970s, his literateness & anti-war attitudes jived w/ my own. These days. I often feel like I live in an all-too-illiterate society (hence my enthusiasm for Goodreads' counterbalance) & reading a bk at all, esp 1 that references many other writers & artists, is ultimately what probably makes me feel like I'm in the company of friends - even though I only 'know' most or all of these people thru their works.

Goya (p9) & Morris Graves (25) & Dante (28) & Chagall (29) & Kafka (31) & Hemingway & Proust & T.S.Eliot (44) & Djuna Barnes (45), etc, etc, grace these pages as characters. What a cast! Ferlinghetti is, of course, the cofounder of City Lights bks & a publisher - as well as a writer in many forms. I can relate: I'm the cofounder of Normal's Books & a publisher & a writer in many forms. I reckon that if I ever have the opportunity to meet him (he's still alive at 92 as I write this) he wdn't have any problem recognizing many of the creative people that I frequently mention & wd probably stump me from time-to-time w/ his own extensive knowledge. If only this were the case more often!

A Coney Island of the Mind was originally published in 1958 & some of the poetry in it dates back to his 1st bk from 1955: Pictures of the Gone World. It astounds me somewhat how much I can relate to the attitude of this bk. He refers to "anarchy" in a completely friendly positive way w/o bothering to even acknowledge the substantial suppression of it in the USA of the time. Take this sentence from "Autobiography":

"I have seen Egyptian pilots in purple clouds
shopkeepers rolling up their blinds
at midday
potato salad and dandelions
at anarchist picnics."

It amused me, & seemed precocious, to read the phrase "drugged store cowboys" on p13 - knowing that a movie wd be similarly named decades later.

On p48 he mentions that the poems "Junkman's Obbligato" & "Autobiography" had been read by him w/ The Cellar Jazz Quintet & released on record. This recording is also on 2 different CDs - one w/ Kenneth Rexroth & one w/ Kenneth Patchen. There're probably people who wd find poetry read along w/ jazz to be a sad cliché of a bygone age - for me, these recordings are utterly wonderful. & reading these poems again I hear Ferlinghetti's readings in memory.

I rarely, or never, hear my poet friends mention Ferlinghetti. Is it b/c he's so much a part of the culture that there's no 'need'? After all, A Coney Island of the Mind is sd to've sold over a million copies - &, given that it's an easy read, most of those copies have probably been read. I wonder if it's more b/c he doesn't self-identify w/ the Beats - the literary superstars of the 20th century? According to his Wikipedia entry:

"Although in style and theme Ferlinghetti’s own writing is very unlike that of the original NY Beat circle, he had important associations with the Beat writers, who made City Lights Bookstore their headquarters when they were in San Francisco. He has often claimed that he was not a Beat, but a bohemian of an earlier generation."

I don't really find his writing to be "very unlike that of the original NY Beat circle" at all & find that to be a somewhat surprising statement. The poetry, at least, seems akin to Ginsberg's. Then again, it's often unclear to me who the Beats were - aside from the core circle of friends most often referenced: Burroughs, Ginsberg, Corso, McClure, Kerouac.. Many people seem to be sometimes associated w/ the Beats & sometimes not.

If Ferlinghetti's not a Beat is he a progenitor (well, no, he's a few yrs too late for that)? His "I am Waiting" (from no later than 1958) is a list poem of sorts that predates Anne Waldman's more famous "Fast Talking Woman" by 16 yrs or so. City Lights published that too. Now Waldman's one of those folks ambiguously associated w/ the Beats (she's the coeditor of the Beats at Naropa bk) although I'm told she associates herself more w/ a New York school that's not Beat. Here's a small section from "I am Waiting" that seems like a good place to end this review:

"and I am waiting
for the war to be fought
which will make the world safe
for anarchy"
Profile Image for Steven Godin.
2,322 reviews2,197 followers
February 10, 2022

Let us arise and go now
into the interior dark night
of the soul's still bowery
and find ourselves anew
where subways stall and wait
under the River.
Cross over
into full puzzlement.
South Ferry will not run forever.
They are cutting out the Bay ferries
but it is still not too late
to get lost in Oakland.
Washington has not yet toppled
from his horse.
There is still time to goose him
and go
leaving our income tax form behind
and our waterproof wristwatch with it
staggering blind after alleycats
under Brooklyn's Bridge
blown statues in baggy pants
our tincan cries and garbage voices
Junk for sale!

Profile Image for Miriam Cihodariu.
577 reviews116 followers
February 5, 2018
I would give this a 4.5 stars but for lack of half-measures I will settle for 5. Still, this means I really loved it. I don't usually rate things so high.

It's a beautiful, gorgeous madness with nothing of random musings in it. Instead, in spite of the random appearance of this madness, everything is horrifyingly meaningful.

Best parts:it's full of references (that actually make sense) to many cultural landmarks, sensitive, insightful, full of that mandatory drunkenness (on life) which seeps into all (good) poetry.

Not so awesome parts: some repetitive images, and the fact that the contempt for middle class values, in my opinion, is really getting old. At least when it's explicit (as it tends to be here).

My favorite:

I have not lain with beauty all my life
telling over myself
its most rife charms
I have not lain with beauty all my life
and lied with it as well
telling over to myself
how beauty never dies
but lies apart
among the aborigines
of art
and far above the battlefields
of love
It is above all that
oh yes
It sits upoin the chiocest of
Church seats
up there where art directors meet
to choose the things for immortality
And they have lain with beauty
all their lives
And they have fed on honeydew
and drunk the wines of Paradise
so that they known exactly how
a thing of beauty is a joy
forever and forever
and how it never never
quite can fade
into a money-losing nothingness
Oh no I have not lain
on Beauty Rests like this
afraid to rise at night
for fear that I might somehow miss
some movement beauty might have made
Yet I have slept with beauty
in my own weird way
and I have made a hungry scene or two
with beauty in my bed
and so spilled out another poem or two
upon the Bosch-like world.
258 reviews
February 27, 2021
I was given this book as a teenager when I was really a little too young to read it, so I didn't. I loved the title though, and thought it was very cool. There the book sat on my various shelves for all these years until I heard that the poet had died at age 101 just the other day. I had no idea he was even still alive. Of course, this was the time to ferret out the book once again. Glad I did. I loved it and will reread many of the lovely, lyrical, acrid, astute lines that I explored. Some of the poems went right over my head. I had no idea what Ferlinghetti was talking about, so I will have to try again with those in a few more years when I hope to become more mature, but most hit the mark, made the point, and made me smile for one reason or another. I enjoyed the second part of the book best, filled with long, chant like poems, written to be read aloud with jazz music playing. I tried reading some aloud while parked by the side of the sea, with an eye out to passers by; I did not want them to see me talking to myself. The selections cover memories of childhood, slivers of influence from artists of all sorts, thoughts of love and escape, and political and social frustration. Timeless.

Profile Image for Punk.
1,498 reviews241 followers
February 2, 2009
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 make a repeat appearance as a metaphor for life and death, and Ferlinghetti also uses a lot of literary allusions, sometimes building circular mazes out of them, especially in his oral poems. The middle section of this book is dedicated to poetry meant to be spoken aloud with jazz accompaniment, and thus considered to be unfinished and in flux. Weirdly, that middle section houses a lot of my favorites, like "Junkman's Obbligato," "Autobiography," and "Dog."

Other favorites: "'One of those paintings that would not die,'" "Don't let that horse," "Just as I used to say," "funny fantasies are never so real as old style romances," and "The world is a beautiful place."

Four stars -- not every poem in here grabs me, but I like a lot of them, and I love more than a couple.
Profile Image for Gypz.
5 reviews
July 20, 2022
One of those books I cannot be over night anywhere without. A “go to” read on almost a daily basis … just open the pages and something wonderful and touching falls to the eye. Currently on the seventh or eighth replacement as the bindings keep wearing out or these last fifty or so years. A most special collection of verse, thoughts, observations, tasty pieces of wisdom and humor.
Profile Image for Jake Kilroy.
874 reviews8 followers
February 24, 2021
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 just trying to get feel-good and a man who can’t stop grinning because he’s having too much fun. It has the wisdom of, “Who gives a shit?” And it has the heart of a romantic, one you can tie down, one that you’re not sure you even want to see tied down. It’s not a wild heart though. It just has a fluttering quality to it. Actually, this whole book read like a drinking buddy rambling inspiration, but you don’t know if it’s a big joke. It’s that light-hearted while being that serious and insightful.
Profile Image for Elyssa.
797 reviews
October 18, 2007
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 their imagery and cadence.
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