Poetry As Insurgent Art

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Author
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Author . New Directions $12.95 (90p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1719-4
Reviewed on: 08/20/2007
Release date: 09/01/2007
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Short and inspiring, but rarely surprising, this collection of remarks, aphorisms and exhortations about the nature and purpose of poetry began in the late 1950s, when Ferlinghetti was just coming into his own as a Beat poet and publisher of City Lights Books. After 50 years of revisions and additions, his claims may not strike experienced readers as fresh—and some may even seem clichéd: “The state of the world,” his first page declares, “calls out for poetry to save it.” On the other hand, Ferlinghetti's very large body of fans (he is one of the bestselling 20th-century American poets) should find reason and justice in these eternal verities, couched in up-to-date lingo: “Poems are e-mails from the unknown beyond cyberspace,” for example. Beginning teachers of creative writing should also find Ferlinghetti's instructions of use: “Read between the lines of human discourse.” Two groups of aphorisms make up most of the volume, to which Ferlinghetti adds a short essay and two 1970s poems. “Modern Poetry Is Prose” encourages young writers to discover the “dark spirit of earth and blood”; “Populist Manifesto #1” hopes “Whitman's wild children,” however pressed down by modernity, will soon “Awake and sing in the open air.” (Sept.)

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