Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Founder of City Lights, Dies at 101
City Lights Booksellers announced the sad news that Lawrence Ferlinghetti, distinguished poet and founder of City Lights has died at the age of 101 on February 22, 2021
An icon of the beat poetry scene of the 1950s, helped create the county’s first all-paperback bookstore in 1953 with the goal of creating a literary meeting place. In 1955 he launched City Lights Publishers. In late 1956, he published a 75¢ paperback, the first edition of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl.
According to NPR, since Howl included passages of homosexual imagery, Ferlinghetti was arrested in 1957 on charges of publishing obscene material. But at the end of the trial, the poem was found to be no obscene because it had redeeming social importance.
He was also a featured presenter on January 14, 1967 in Golden Gate Park’s “Human Be-In.”
In 1998, in his inaugural address as Poet Laureate of San Francisco, Ferlinghetti urged San Franciscans to vote to remove a portion of the earthquake-damaged Central Freeway and replace it with a boulevard. “Just a few blocks from here, the ugly Central Freeway can be brought down for good if you vote for Proposition E on the November ballot.” The ballot measure passed and the result was Octavia Boulevard and the blossoming of Hayes Valley as a vibrant neighbhood.
Ferlinghetti turned 100 in March 2019, leading the city of San Francisco to proclaim his birthday, March 24, “Lawrence Ferlinghetti Day”.
Read more about the legacy of Lawrence Ferlinghetti.