Feb. 23 – On Monday, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the author, publisher and owner of the City Lights book store in San Francisco, died, his family said. He was already 101 years old. According to The New York Times and The Washington Post, Ferlinghetti’s daughter, Julie Sasser, and son, Lorenzo Ferlinghetti, said the cause of death was interstitial lung disease.In addition to running a publishing house that supported the Beat Generation, in a 1950s trial on obscenity charges for Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl.” Ferlinghetti was thrust into the national spotlight.
Ferlinghetti’s father, born in Yonkers, N.Y., on March 24, 1919, died of a heart attack before he was born, and his mother was institutionalized as an infant, leaving him to spend his childhood divided between living with an uncle in Manhattan, an aunt in France and an orphanage in Chappaqua, N.Y.He graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1941 and served in the Navy during World War II, where his experience in Nagasaki spurred a lifetime of resistance to war after the deployment of an Allied atomic bomb.
“You’d see hands sticking up out of the mud,”You would see hands sticking out from the mud. “Hair sticking out of the road — a quagmire — people don’t realize how total the destruction was.”He received a master’s degree from Columbia University after the war and moved to Paris, where he met his partner, Selden Kirby-Smith, and arrived in San Francisco in 1951, two years later, before opening City Lights.
The store remained open late into the night and was known for stocking gay and lesbian publications throughout its existence.In 1955, Ferlinghetti launched the City Lights publishing arm as the first volume of its Pocket Poet series was his “Pictures of the Gone World” He released Ginsberg’s poem “Howl,” a year later, which attracted backlash for its profanity and language regarding gay sex, and Ferlinghetti and City Lights manager Shigeyoshi Murao were arrested on obscenity charges following their second printing in 1957.
Ferlinghetti was convicted by Municipal Court Judge Clayton W. Horn, finding that the poem had “redeeming social importance and could not be judged as obscene.” For his 1958 collection “A Coney Island of the Mind,” which New York congressman Steve B. Derouinian accused of being blasphemous, he also attracted controversy as an author.