Friday, March 29, 2013

I Wish I'd Written This

Seascape  With Sun and Eagle

By Lawrence Ferlinghetti

than most birds
an eagle flies up
over San Francisco
freer than most places
soars high up
floats and glides high up
in the still
open spaces

flown from the mountains
floated down
far over ocean
where the sunset has begun
a mirror of itself

He sails high over
turning and turning
where seaplanes might turn
where warplanes might burn

He wheels about burning
in the red sun
climbs and glides
and doubles back upon himself
now over ocean
now over land
high over pinwheels suck in sand
where a rollercoaster used to stand

soaring eagle setting sun
All that is left of our wilderness 

Someone reported on facebook the other day that the amiable beat poet and founder of City Lights bookshop, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, had died at 94. However none of the online encyclopedias seems to have got on to it yet, though they are usually prompt, and I can't find a news report — so I rather doubt it. I did find a report that he had died last year at 93, but this cannot be so, as surely the encyclopedias would have caught up by now. I also saw a strong assertion that he died in 1997 at the age of 78, but I think we can discount that one — his last book of poems was published in 2012. Whatever the facts, he's clearly one of those who lives until he dies.

I was tempted to post his Somewhere During Eternity today, because he is famous as a beat poet and it's in beat language, and because this is Good Friday and the poem is about Jesus and the crucifixion. (On the face of it that poem might seem anti-Christian, but I think it's quite the opposite, albeit ironic.) 

But after all, this above is the Ferlinghetti poem I'd most wish to have written, for its message and its beauty. The setting is San Francisco, and my only experience of that city is a wonderful afternoon between planes in 1998, but its truths would apply anywhere (sadly).

His output is prodigious, and you can find a full bibliography in the Wikipedia article, which is worth reading in full. There are two pages of his books available for purchase at Amazon, and you can read more of his poems here. You'll see that his work, whilst having a recognisable voice, is versatile in style.

Did I mention that he's my favourite beat poet, Ginsberg notwithstanding? (Well, sometimes I think Corso was my favourite instead. But that's another story and perhaps another post.) I never met Mr Ferlinghetti, nor had any communication with him — so how can I describe him as amiable? That's an impression I've formed from reading what others say about him. He seems to be a thoroughly nice bloke. There is no doubt he has done a lot in his long life to help other poets and further the cause of poetry, and has lived true to his lights.

Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).


  1. This is glorious, a wonderful pick :D

  2. Yes, glorious is what I think of too in to wild and free images he paints! Thank-you for sharing this gem.

  3. I love the poem. It definitely captures the spirit of the eagle. I enjoyed your information about Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Interesting about the confusion about whether he has died or not. I will have to read more of his poetry. I liked that you expressed 'he lived true to his lights.' Might that be an Aussie expression?

    1. I think it's an English expression, perhaps a rather old-fashioned one. I was of course making a little pun too, on the name of his bookshop and (as you'll see in the articles I've linked to) magazine he published.

  4. City Lights... of course it was founded by a poet! And the poem you chose frees the spirit. How fitting for Good Friday!

  5. i liked the beat poets. Thanks for sharing Mr.Ferlinghetti's work. :)

  6. Wow!wonderful...very smooth flowing just like the spirit of flying...

  7. He is my favorite beat poet as well. I am just finishing, Coney Island Of The Mind. Thanks for this.

  8. A wonderful choice, kiddo. "All that is left of our wilderness" catches me in the heart. Yes, he is fully alive, which is how we all want to go thru our 90's, right?

  9. What a mind-blowing talent. I know he's still a live, in the dusty books on shelves, on blogs such as this one... real poets never die, as long as their work is valued.

    I clicked on "Eternity" and actually, as a member of the Christian Left (!), I found his observations, viewing as he did from his "now," to be inspiring, sad, and altogether a groove. THanks, Rosemary, for highlighting one of the greats. Peace, Amy

  10. So nice. I write myself (as you can tell by my blog) but I love this.

  11. San Francisco is my city, which made me enjoy this poem even more. Thank you.


  12. great one to share - thanks again for the inspiration and thoughtful insight


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