261 Columbus Avenue

THIS IS probably one of my favorite corners  to stand on on the planet.  Crossing Columbus Avenue, facing City Lights Books & Publishers.

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Over the weekend, City Lights’ co-founder, the poet and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti, marked his 100th birthday and there was much noise and celebration throughout North Beach and beyond.

I have been visiting the store since before college, I would guess. Dragging friends along to wander among the many floors of books, later to pose outside under the signage. But always what was the most magical thing about this place was happening upon its founder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, walking along Columbus or holding forth in one of the sunny cafes. This store is one of the important points on my personal map. I wouldn’t be who I was without it.

I wrote  piece for the Los Angeles Times Op-Ed section that ran yesterday about both Ferlinghetti and the store’s legacy and impact. You can find it here.

Keeping the Light On

I JUST finished floating through nearly 900 pages of dreamy recollections —  those of poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Two books arrive, just months apart, that provide a fresh look at the publisher and poet who was responsible for creating the necessary support for a new generation of thinkers and writers. Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Books — both the publisher and book store — has served as north star in San Francisco’s North Beach for generations. I review two books for the Los Angeles Times — Writing Across the Landscape: Travel Journals: 1960-2010 and “I Greet You at the Beginning of a Great Career” The Selected Correspondence of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg – 1955-1997 .

You can find the review here.

Both books are beautiful offerings. The journals, a vivid testament to the life of the mind; the letters, a celebration of the evolution of a long and tender friendship.

image: City Lights Bookstore via found SF

“all the possible directions”

Jack-Kerouac-1

“I felt the sensation of each of the directions I mentally and emotionally turned into amazed at all the possible directions you can take with different motives that come in like it can make you a different person — I’ve often thought of this since childhood of suppose instead of going up Columbus as I usually did I’d turn into Filbert would something happen that at the time is insignificant enough but would be like enough to influence my whole life in the end? — What’s in store for me in the direction I don’t take?”

― Jack Kerouac, The Subterraneans
Born March 12, 1922

Photo Poetry

THE NEW YORK TIMES has a gorgeous slideshow up of Allen Ginsberg’s snapshots of the best minds of his generation. I’ve always loved these photos and many of them have been collected in one volume or another. The slideshow features highlights of a current show up at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. This one of Kerouac has been tacked up to many of my writing desks over the years. Ginsberg captioned it — in his distinctive prose-poetry thusly:

“Jack Kerouac wandering along East 7th street after visiting Burroughs at our pad, passing statue of Congressman Samuel “Sunset” Cot, “The Letter – Carrier’s Friend” in Tompkins Square toward corner of Avenue A, Lower East Side; he’s making a Dostoyevsky mad-face or Russian basso be-bop Om, first walking around the neighborhood, then involved with The Subterraneans, pencils & notebook in wool shirt-pockets, Fall 1953, Manhattan.”
1953

These photos were small poems and made me think about how thin the line is between the written word and the visual statement can be — beautiful complete little stories told in visual moments.

photo credit:
via National Gallery of Art site
gelatin silver print
Gift of Gary S. Davis
2009.108.2