Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

1919 -

A poet whose verses combine political and social dissent with substantial literary merit, Lawrence Ferlinghetti is not only a poet, but also a translator, playwright, essayist, art critic, film narrator, and fiction writer. He also co-founded City Lights Books in San Francisco.


The son of an Italian immigrant and an American of French and Portugese descent, Ferlinghetti was born in Yonkers, New York. French was Ferlinghetti's first language, as (due to his father's death and his mother's mental illness) he lived with his aunt in Strasbourg (France) for the first five years of his life. After earning his Bachelor's degree at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and serving in the Navy during World War II, he attended graduate school at Columbia University. He earned his Masters's in English Literature there in 1947, and then earned his Doctorat de l’Université de Paris at the Sorbonne in 1951.

In 1953, he founded City Lights Bookstore with Peter D. Martin. The bookstore was the first all-paperbound bookstore in the country, and, with their Pocket Poets Series, City Lights published Allen Ginsberg's controversial volume Howl & Other Poems in 1956.

Ferlinghetti has published more than 30 volumes of his own poetry. While associated with the Beat movement, his work is very unlike that of the Beats. (So was his life--he was married in 1951 and had one daughter and one son.) Emerging strongly from the American lyric tradition of Whitman and Eliot, Ferlinghetti's poetry combines political commentary on democracy in combination with natural wonder and the human plight.

Ferlinghetti currently writes a column for the San Francisco Chronicle.

--Christie Finn

Songs & Song Collections BY Ferlinghetti (entered to date)
Composers who set Ferlinghetti's TEXTS (entered to date)

Audio PLaylist