Of all the beats, Ferlinghetti has lasted best. He's still living - which makes him of course almost unique among the major beats (I am reminded that Gary Snyder is also happily still with us) - but his poems pass the test of time well too. So I was thrilled to find in a Bloomsbury bookshop this weekend a first UK edition of his landmark work A Coney Island of the Mind.
This appeared in the US in 1958, with the UK edition the following year. It includes the poems from his 1955 volume, Pictures of the Gone World. So all of the best of Ferlinghetti's early work is here.
The title, Ferlinghetti explains, is taken from Henry Miller, and 'expressed the way I felt about these poems when I wrote them - as if they were, taken together, a kind of Coney Island of the mind, a kind of circus of the soul.'
Coney Island is a peninsula jutting out from Brooklyn in New York City into the Atlantic Ocean. It's famous for its amusement parks. And that provides the motif for the dust jacket and the matching decorated boards of this particularly smart edition - see below.
By this time, Ferlinghetti had already established City Lights bookshop in San Francisco, which continues to flourish.
Let me give you a flavour of Coney Island - the first few lines of the first poem:
In Goya's greatest scenes we seem to see
the people of the world
exactly at the moment when
they first attained the title of
They writhe upon the page
in a veritable rage
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