Due to popular demand, and as a concession to common sense, we've decided to put poems here on our website — one poet per week.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti: poet, novelist, publisher, bookseller, social activist, and much more. An enduring American icon at a time when achieving such status seems impossible.
The December 19 issue of The Nation features a new poem by Ferlinghetti, one that addresses Occupy Wall Street and its attendant issues. We've posted it below, but you should still head over to The Nation's site afterwards to hear a recording of him reading it at Club Fugazi.
"The First and the Last of Everything"
The first fine dawn of life on earth
The first cry of Man in the first light
The first firefly flickering at night
The first Noble Savage with the first erection
The first song of love and forty cries of despair
The first voyage of Vikings westward
The first sighting of the New World
from the crow’s nest of a Spanish galleon
The first Pale Face meeting the first Native American
The first Dutch trader in Mannahatta
The first settler on the first frontier
The first Home Sweet Home so dear
The first wagon train westward
The first sighting of the Pacific by Lewis & Clark
The first cry of “Mark, twain!” on the Mississippi
The first desegregation by Huck & Jim on a raft at night
The first buffalo-head nickel and the last buffalo
The first barbed-wire fence and the last of the open range
The last cowboy on the last frontier
The first skyscraper in America
The first home run hit at Yankee Stadium
The first ballpark hot dog with mustard
The last War to End All Wars
The last Wobbly and the last Catholic Anarchist
The last living member of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade
The last bohemian in a beret
The last homespun politician and the first stolen election
The first plane to hit the first Twin Tower
The birth of a vast national paranoia
The first president to become an international criminal
for crimes against humanity making America a terrorist state
The dark dawn of American corporate fascism
The next-to-last free speech radio
The next-to-last independent newspaper raising hell
The next-to-last independent bookstore with a mind of its own
The next-to-last Lefty looking for Obama Nirvana
The first fine day of the Wall Street Occupation
to set forth upon this continent a new nation!
And as an unabashed fanboy of Lawrence Ferlinghetti (I am still awed when I get emails from him), I can't resist sharing my two favorite poems from the modern classic, A Coney Island of the Mind, first published by New Directions in 1958.
it was like this when
we waltz into this place
a couple of far out cats
is doing an Aztec two-step
And I says
Dad let’s cut
but then this dame
comes up behind me see
You and me could really exist
Wow I says
Only the next day
she has bad teeth
and really hates
I love the snapshot glimpse of an era, and the slang, and the guiltless vanity at the end.
That ‘sensual phosphorescence
my youth delighted in’
now lies almost behind me
like a land of dreams
wherein an angel
of hot sleep
dances like a diva
in strange veils
thru which desire
looks and cries
And still she dances
and still she comes
with breathing breasts
and secret lips
That (ah) is just perfect. Masterful.
ND editor Michael Barron interviewed Elaine Lustig for Bomb's blog. Read it here.
May 2013 News from New Directions
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Rebecca Ariel Porte, in a beautiful essay written for the Los Angeles Review of Books, dicusses Susan Howe's Sorting Facts: Nineteen Ways of Looking at Marker, addressing Chris Marker's films, as well. Definitely worth a read — here.
Writing for Bookslut, Christopher Merkel reviews the 65th anniversary edition of the classic modernist text. Read it here.