Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Legendary Beat Generation Bookseller and Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti of City Lights Books on the 50th Anniversary of Jack Kerouac's "On The Road", Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" and Poetry As Insurgent Art

From Democracy Now:

LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI: Well, it all came out at once. And another case that if I had died shortly thereafter -- I wrote it when I was in my mid-thirties. That would probably be considered my best book, and it’s as I was saying before, the best poetry is written when one is fairly young. To me now, it seems that the mid-thirties as being -- is very young. But --

AMY GOODMAN: Why is it, then? I mean, you’ve got the wisdom of a lifetime now.

LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI: Well, you haven’t have time to be acclimated or acclimated in the worst ways by modern industrial corporate monoculture, for instance, or American consumer society, which the way American consumer society is worked out, it seems to me the suburbs of America are the great American death.

You know, I’d like to read one poem that I just wrote. I really want to get this out.


LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI: Especially since Khalil Gibran has been in the news lately, including yesterday or the day before on your program. “Pity the Nation,” after Khalil Gibran.

Pity the nation whose people are sheep,
and whose shepherds mislead them.
Pity the nation whose leaders are liars, whose sages are silenced,
and whose bigots haunt the airwaves.
Pity the nation that raises not its voice,
except to praise conquerors and acclaim the bully as hero
and aims to rule the world with force and by torture.
Pity the nation that knows no other language but its own
and no other culture but its own.
Pity the nation whose breath is money
and sleeps the sleep of the too well fed.
Pity the nation -- oh, pity the people who allow their rights to erode
and their freedoms to be washed away.
My country, tears of thee, sweet land of liberty.

Click here to read, watch, or listen to the rest.

"...it seems to me the suburbs of America are the great American death."

That's probably the best quote I've heard in the last five years or so. As many Real Art readers know, I'm a product of the American suburbs myself, and have spent the last twenty years or so trying to eradicate their influence on the person I am. It's sad really: even though I explicitly reject the consumerist, materialistic, vacuous, and selfish values of neighborhoods like the one that produced me, I will probably never be able to shake off entirely the dark shadow they've cast over me. That is, even rejecting the suburbs means I have a relationship with them.

Anyway, no real commentary from me on the Ferlinghetti interview--I mean, the guy's all over the place, which would have me typing until Thursday. His words speak best for themselves, and it's worth it to me to steer Real Art readers in his direction because he so well articulates what I think about the artist's role in America.

Go check it out.