Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the last great poet of the Beat Generation who helped to establish the counter-culture movement of 1950s America through his City Lights bookshop and publishers, has died, the store announced Tuesday. He was 101.
“We love you, Lawrence,” City Lights said on Twitter, adding that Ferlinghetti died on Monday.
Born on March 24, 1919, the New York native took part in the D-Day landings of World War II and saw the horror of atomic-bombed Nagasaki before ending up in San Francisco in 1953 and co-founding City Lights.
The bookstore became the outlet of Beat expression, a meeting point for its free-wheeling poets and, two years later, the first publisher of its leading authors including Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg.
Ferlinghetti released his own volume “A Coney Island of the Mind” in 1958, the collection selling more than a million copies and establishing him as a major poet in his own right.
He was arrested on obscenity charges in 1957 for publishing Ginsberg’s “Howl,” considered an anthem of the disaffected Beat generation with its opening line, “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked.”
The poem, which refers to homosexuality and drugs, was criticized as explicit, but Ferlinghetti was acquitted in a highly publicized trial at which the judge ruled it was “not … without redeeming social importance.”
City Lights said Ferlinghetti “continued to write and publish new work up until he was 100 years old, and his work has earned him a place in the American canon.”