Every year my appreciation for you and the things you’ve done increases. What a life of accomplishment—Coney Island of the Mind, with nearly a million copies in print, perhaps the best selling book of American poetry ever. City Lights, the bookstore, a cultural icon for the city of San Francisco. City Lights, the publishing house, responsible for putting so many modernists, surrealists, and other poetic experimenters into print. And before all that, you not only got a Ph.D. from the Sorbonne (university of my dreams), you wrote your dissertation “The City as a Symbol in Modern Poetry: in Search of a Metropolitan Tradition,” in French.
Now you’re 98 and still being what Larry Smith called a “Poet-at-Large.” I just finished Smith’s book, Lawrence Ferlinghetti: Poet-at-Large from Southern Illinois University Press and it’s reminded me of just how much you’ve accomplished and of the complexity underlying your work. I’ve known the basics of your bio for some time, but Smith’s analysis of how you are influenced by the abstract-expressionists and surrealists gives me new insight into your work, and highlights your unique internationalist position and perspective. He also makes me want to return to your novel, Her, with eyes open to appreciate your weaving of the absurd and surreal in what Smith calls a “major avant-garde novel.”
And so Happy Belated Birthday. The world’s a better place with you still around.