Constantly Risking Absurdity: The Writings of Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Constantly Risking Absurdity: The Writings of Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Constantly Risking Absurdity: The Writings of Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Constantly Risking Absurdity: The Writings of Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Synopsis

"This book should open the minds and, possibly, the doors of the academicians to a poet often ignored at home.... This is a valuable, balanced account of the works of a seldom-examined poet." Journal of Modern Literature

Excerpt

O but we dreamed to mend Whatever mischief seemed To afflict mankind. . . . -- "Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen" -- W. B. Yeats (206)

Many of the Beat Generation writers prided themselves on their refusal to encourage any form of political alignment. Lawrence Ferlinghetti is among the most avowedly political in subject matter, a stance which he claims made him appear heretical in Beat circles: "But I am put down by Beat natives who say I cannot be Beat and 'committed' at the same time" (Jacket notes). His involvement, he asserts, is involuntary: "Politics is a drag, but every once in a while you get dragged into it and have to sound off" (Meltzer 135-36). Similarly, in a 1965 interview, he explains, "Politics is a big drag. I'm getting further away from it, not closer to it. . . . satire and politics keep creeping in whenever a situation exists that I get angry about" (Idiot 17). The booklength Tyrannus Nix? (1969), most of the "Public & Political Poems" of Open Eye, Open Heart (1973), A Political Pamphlet (1976), and the protest poems of Who Are We Now? (1976) and Landscapes of Living & Dying (1979) testify to the recurrence of those situations which goad the engag writer into violating his resolutions to muffle the political voice. Ferlinghetti has written poems on virtually every issue which has become politically prominent since the mid-1950s: the Cuban revolution, the war in Vietnam, atomic and nuclear armaments, racism, civil disobedience, overpopulation, drug abuse, and threats to the ecosystem. These poems include his "broadsides," which Ferlinghetti describes as "satirical tirades -- poetry admittedly corrupted by the political, itself irradiated by the Thing it attacks" (quoted on Starting back cover). Consequently, he employs a visceral, populist attack on the impersonal, omnivorous structures of bureaucracy and nationalism, and he celebrates "the power of poetry to . . .

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