Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Beat Poet and Publisher, Dies at 101

Lawrence Ferlinghetti (left) and Allen Ginsberg in 1965 (Photo by M. Stroud/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the poet and bookseller whose San Francisco store City Light Books was the nexus of the Beat movement in the 1950s and ’60s, died Monday at age 101.

Ferlinghetti died at his San Francisco home of lung cancer, his son Lorenzo Ferlinghetti told the Associated Press.

He became famous as the publisher of Beat Generation figures like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg and famously stood trial in 1957 on obscenity charges for publishing Ginsberg’s anti-establishment poem “Howl.” He was acquitted on charges of “willfully and lewdly” printing “indecent writings” in a major victory for First Amendment rights.

“The greatest poem is lyric life itself.”

Our poet and hero, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, passed away on Monday, February 22nd, in the evening.

We love you, Lawrence. ?https://t.co/h5QuVgbo4c

— City Lights Books (@CityLightsBooks)

Born in Yonkers, New York, Ferlinghetti served in the U.S. Navy in World War II, and then earned a graduate degree at Columbia University. After spending time in Paris, he settled in San Francisco in 1951 and co-founded City Lights two years later as a kind of salon for the growing community of artists and poets flocking to the city.

An accomplished poet and painter himself, Ferlinghetti soon became known as a publisher and champion of a new wave of writers who would become leading figures in the Beat movement: In addition to Ginsberg, he published works by Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs. Gregory Corso and many others.

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