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Ferlinghetti, Potent as Ever

Happy National Poetry Month!

I was going to try and do a roundup of several newish poetry books, but I got so stuck on this book, that I couldn't follow through. So...

Lawrence Ferlinghetti is one of my all-time favorite poets. I cut my teeth, 30 years ago, on A Coney Island of the Mind, which was first published by New Directions in 1958. With its jazzy meter and hip parlance, it helped set the mind-set for the whole Beat phenomenon. In fact, he founded both City Lights Books and City Lights Publishers, and went on to publish much of the most interesting material of ensuing years.

Ferlinghetti is now 95 years old, and his subsequent work has been equally important to my development as a reader and devotee of poetry. Time of Useful Consciousness was his last book, a collection I went nuts over, and his newest book, Blasts Cries Laughter, is equally good.

One of the things that sets this book apart is that it's among the latest installments in New Directions' wonderful new series of poetry pamphlets, of which I've written recently. That makes it indeed a slim book. Don't be dismayed by its page count, though, for the thing that really sets Ferlinghetti apart from almost anyone in the universe of poesy is the sheer energy of his writing; his words burn on the page and carry the reader along in a veritable carnival of imaginative and visionary prowess that's nothing short of amazing.

Ferlinghetti's always been a poet with a highly developed social conscience. In Blasts Cries Laugher, he sounds the tocsin against global warming and the climate crisis, against poets who take their social stature for granted and don't dare anything, and against the suppression of such forward-looking movements as Occupy.

It's Autogeddon
An Armageddon of autos
In the City of Angels
In downtown Denver
In Chicago and Manhattan
Mexico City and Milan
Calcutta and Tokyo
Drowned in the bad breath of machines
The sun's wearing shades

The Ozone layer coughing smog
The ecosystem as finely balanced as a mobile
A computer about to crash

Wait — there's more:

A casino culture out of control
A hole in its ozone soul
A sweepstakes Winner Take All
A shooting gallery for masters of war
A bull market with toreadors
A runaway juggernaut heading for naught
A runaway robot bombing through cities
The hydraulic brakes blown
Not even the UN not even the EU
Not even the Pope or you name it

And onward.

If you're looking for something that will leave you humbled, dizzy, challenged, and grateful, look no further. Hands down, this is one of the best, most interesting, and most downright prophetic books of the year.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. Blasts Cries Laughter (New... New Trade Paper $10.95
  2. Time of Useful Consciousness New Hardcover $22.95
  3. Coney Island of the Mind Used Trade Paper $4.50

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