Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the founder of San Francisco’s City Lights Booksellers and Publishers, a poet and towering Beat movement figure, died on Monday at the age of 101.
Ferlinghetti — who opened City Lights in 1953 as the country’s first all-paperback bookstore and turned it into a San Francisco icon — wrote and published poetry until he was 100, including the bestselling “A Coney Island of The Mind.”
“For over sixty years, those of us who have worked with him at City Lights have been inspired by his knowledge and love of literature, his courage in defense of the right to freedom of expression, and his vital role as an American cultural ambassador. His curiosity was unbounded and his enthusiasm was infectious, and we will miss him greatly,” a statement on the City Lights bookstore’s website said.
In 1956, Ferlinghetti published Allen Ginsburg’s “Howl,” one of the 20th century’s most famous poems. He was arrested for it in 1957 on obscenity charges, but fought the charges in court and won.
In 2019, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced that Ferlinghetti’s birthday, March 24, would be known as Lawrence Ferlinghetti Day. In 2001, City Lights Bookstore was designated a historic landmark.
“We intend to build on Ferlinghetti’s vision and honor his memory by sustaining City Lights into the future as a center for open intellectual inquiry and commitment to literary culture and progressive politics. Though we mourn his passing, we celebrate his many contributions and give thanks for all the years we were able to work by his side,” City Lights Bookstore said.