Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919-2021) As He Looked When I Met Him
It was my freshman year at Dartmouth College. When I heard that beatnik poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti was going to visit the campus, give a poetry reading from his recently published collection A Coney Island of the Mind, and answer questions, I decided to show up. In all, there were about twenty-five students in the audience, plus a few professors.
I really enjoyed the poems, such as this one, which is called “I Am Waiting”:
I am waiting for my case to come up and I am waiting for a rebirth of wonder and I am waiting for someone to really discover America and wail and I am waiting for the discovery of a new symbolic western frontier and I am waiting for the American Eagle to really spread its wings and straighten up and fly right and I am waiting for the Age of Anxiety to drop dead and I am waiting for the war to be fought which will make the world safe for anarchy and I am waiting for the final withering away of all governments and I am perpetually awaiting a rebirth of wonder I am waiting for the Second Coming and I am waiting for a religious revival to sweep through the state of Arizona and I am waiting for the Grapes of Wrath to be stored and I am waiting for them to prove that God is really American and I am waiting to see God on television piped’ onto church altars if only they can find the right channel to tune in on and I am waiting for the Last Supper to be served again with a strange new appetizer and I am perpetually awaiting a rebirth of wonder I am waiting for my number to be called and I am waiting for the Salvation Army to take over and I am waiting for the meek to be blessed and inherit the earth without taxes and I am waiting for forests and animals to reclaim the earth as theirs and I am waiting for a way to be devised to destroy all nationalisms without killing anybody and I am waiting for linnets and planets to fall like rain and I am waiting for lovers and weepers to lie down together again in a new rebirth of wonder I am waiting for the Great Divide to ‘be crossed and I am anxiously waiting for the secret of eternal life to be discovered by an obscure general practitioner and I am waiting for the storms of life to be over and I am waiting to set sail for happiness and I am waiting for a reconstructed Mayflower to reach America with its picture story and tv rights sold in advance to the natives and I am waiting for the lost music to sound again in the Lost Continent in a new rebirth of wonder I am waiting for the day that maketh all things clear and I am awaiting retribution for what America did to Tom Sawyer and I am waiting for the American Boy to take off Beauty’s clothes and get on top of her and I am waiting for Alice in Wonderland to retransmit to me her total dream of innocence and I am waiting for Childe Roland to come to the final darkest tower and I am waiting for Aphrodite to grow live arms at a final disarmament conference in a new rebirth of wonder I am waiting to get some intimations of immortality by recollecting my early childhood and I am waiting for the green mornings to come again youth’s dumb green fields come back again and I am waiting for some strains of unpremeditated art to shake my typewriter and I am waiting to write the great indelible poem and I am waiting for the last long careless rapture and I am perpetually waiting for the fleeing lovers on the Grecian Urn to catch each other up at last and embrace and I am waiting perpetually and forever a renaissance of wonder
Lawrence Ferlinghetti died on Monday, February 22, which is Washington’s birthday, at the ripe old age of 101, just a month shy of his 102nd.
I was too shy to ask the poet any questions, being a detested freshman. But I did enjoy seeing him handle the know-it-alls that asked questions only to make themselves look good. Ferlinghetti may have been a poet, but he knew how to handle wise asses.