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A Coney Island of the Mind: Poems

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  11,030 ratings  ·  380 reviews
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. ...more
Paperback, 93 pages
Published 1958 by New Directions
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Bill Kerwin
May 22, 2007 rated it really liked it

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 op
Dave Schaafsma
Sep 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 w
May 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Sep 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetshere
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 redempt
Renee Alberts
Oct 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Dec 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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! ...more
Adriana Scarpin
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 witherin
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
Jul 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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


Feb 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dangerpoet
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.

Erik Graff
Jul 02, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Apr 17, 2008 rated it really liked it

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
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

A slightly different take of mine about this book:

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 min
Oct 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: us, poetry
'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"
Nov 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
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
Mind the Book
Att läsas experimentellt till (inre) jazz.
En favorit är Autobiography.

#BOTNS bokbingo: 'Has a place-name in the title'
Matthew Mousseau
Nov 16, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
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,
Dec 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
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
Oct 09, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
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
Matthew Gallant
Feb 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
dirty sacred
Dec 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Not reading this is UnAmerican. Really.
Clearly, this is one of the most wonderful and important collections of American poetry yet written. Ferlinghetti is, in my view, king of the Beat Era poets.
Dec 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Feb 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
In "A Coney Island of the Mind"
Ferlinghetti's poetry is totally mind blowing and unbelievably still seems quite current...A masterpiece!!
Feb 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
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 t ...more
Miriam Cihodariu
Feb 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: usa, poetry
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 int
Apr 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 the co
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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…