AMERICUS, Book I

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Author . New Directions $21.95 (90p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1578-7

The world-famous poet (A Coney Island of the Mind ) and founder of San Francisco's City Lights bookstore and press tackles more material than ever in this first volume of verse since How to Paint Sunlight (2001). Twelve untitled sections packed with quotations and references seek, and in part arrive at, an inclusive history of America, from the startings out of its first poets to the hope and peril of the early 1960s. Calling America "the greatest experiment on earth" but warning against "Bush League Presidencies/ in totalitarian plutocracies," Ferlinghetti goes on to praise his heroes and models, "Whitman's wild children and grandchildren," from Vachel Lindsay to Ginsberg and beyond. A multi-page verse-essay on the art of poetry argues that "A poem should still be an insurgent knock on the door of the unknown." Later sections knock on the doors of various moments in modern Western history—the Wright brothers, the Kennedy assassination, German Expressionism, the Brooklyn Dodgers. Both world wars come in for extended treatment: "No end to the sweet births of consciousness to the bitter deaths of it in vain." Ferlinghetti's exuberant, loquacious catalogues and collages try to rival previous encyclopedic and historical poems, from Eliot, Pound and Olson (all of whom he cites repeatedly) to Neruda and Paulin. This an ambitious effort, but one marked with a lack of subtlety, and an overdependence on its famous models. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/22/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 90 pages - 978-0-8112-1641-8
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