I was shocked to find that Lawrence Ferlinghetti (born in March 1919) was still alive. Today, I borrowed one of his poetry collections from the L.A. Central Library and remembered with great pleasure running into the poet himself at Dartmouth College around the mid 1960s. He was on campus to read a selection of poems from his collection A Coney Island of the Mind (1958) and to answer questions.
Never in my life had I seen someone with his uncanny ability to deflect questions. My classmates posed the usual bullshit queries that were typical of people who wanted to look very intellectual but didn’t know what they were talking about. I enjoyed the poems, and I liked all the anecdotes of the beatnik poets he published, such as Allen Ginsburg, Gregory Corso, and Gary Snyder. But I kept my mouth shut lest I be exposed like so many of my classmates were.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that A Coney Island of the Mind is the best-selling poetry collection ever published in the United States, having sold in excess of a million copies.