Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder

Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder

Lawrence Ferlinghetti in front of his San Francisco bookstore City Lights in 1996, as seen in FERLINGHETTI: A REBIRTH OF WONDER, a film by Chris Felver. A First Run Features release. Photo by Chris Felver.

Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder (2009/2013)

Opened: 02/08/2013 Limited

Quad Cinema/NYC02/08/2013 - 02/14/20137 days

Trailer: Click for trailer

Websites: Home

Genre: Biographical Documentary

Rated: Unrated

"Set against the turbulent background of post-war America and the rise of beat culture, this thoughtful, vividly shot film gives us Ferlinghetti the flamboyant, insurgent poet, as well as Ferlinghetti the vital contributor to the now threatened world of book culture in this country." -- Billy Collins, Poet Laureate of the United States (2001-2003)

In this definitive documentary, director Christopher Felver crafts an incisive, sharply wrought portrait that reveals Ferlinghetti's true role as catalyst for numerous literary careers and for the Beat movement itself. One-on-one interviews with Ferlinghetti, made over the course of a decade, touch upon a rich melange of characters and events that began to unfold in postwar America. These events include the publication of Allen Ginsberg's Howl, William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch, and Jack Kerouac's On the Road, as well as the divisive events of the Vietnam war, the sexual revolution, and this country's perilous march towards intellectual and political bankruptcy. Since its inception in 1953, Ferlinghetti's City Lights Bookstore quickly became an iconic literary institution that embodied social change and literary freedom. Continuing to thrive for over five decades, it is a cornerstone of America's modern literary and cultural history.


The poet and writer Lawrence Ferlinghetti is an iconic presence in the world of arts and letters. For well over half a century he has helped shape the currents of poetry and literature through his forceful engagement with society. Armed with an ideological position that often found him at odds with the political dogma of his day, Ferlinghetti became the bestselling poet of the modern era, a literary mercenary and a rebel at the forefront of a cultural revolution.

In this definitive documentary film, director Christopher Felver crafts an incisive, sharply wrought portrait that reveals Ferlinghetti's true role as catalyst for numerous literary careers and for the Beat movement itself.

Ferlinghetti explores the world of San Francisco's legendary poet, artist, publisher and civil libertarian. Presenting himself as a living presence in poetry, Mr. Ferlinghetti reads many of his significant poems, discusses his political and social activism, and gives viewers an insight into his public and private life as it unfolds over nine remarkable decades.

Felver's one-on-one interviews with Ferlinghetti, made over the course of a decade, touch upon a rich melange of characters and events that began to unfold in postwar America. These events include the publication of Allen Ginsberg's Howl, William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch, and Jack Kerouac's On the Road, as well as the divisive events of the Vietnam war, the sexual revolution, and this country's perilous march towards intellectual and political bankruptcy. Since its inception in 1953, Ferlinghetti's City Lights Bookstore quickly became an iconic literary institution that embodied social change and literary freedom. Continuing to thrive for over five decades, it is a cornerstone of America's modern literary and cultural history.

Ferlinghetti's ideological identity began to coalesce soon after visiting the ruins of Nagasaki -- just weeks after the devastation of the atomic bomb in 1945 -- an event which he says transformed him into "an instant pacifist." His newfound skepticism regarding the power of the state materialized into his unique brand of political activism shortly after he moved to San Francisco and made the acquaintance of Kenneth Rexroth. The political principles he infused into his poetry, rooted in anarchist thought and civil libertarianism, quickly spread throughout the world -- even cited as one of the primary catalysts of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. Back at home, the Beat Generation's rebellion against the social conservatism of the 1950's jump-started social awareness and permanently impacted the tone and character of American culture. And it was Ferlinghetti's infamous censorship trial--for his publication of Allen Ginsberg's Howl in 1956 -- versus the City of San Francisco that launched the social rebellion of the Beats into national consciousness. By winning the trial, Ferlinghetti set a precedent that secured the First Amendment rights of publishing in this country and preserved the freedom of speech in literature. He set the foundation for successive generations of First Amendment activists: the musicians, poets, authors, and filmmakers who continue to protect our freedom of speech today.

The film features archival photographs and historical footage, with appearances by Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Billy Collins, Dennis Hopper, Robert Scheer, Dave Eggers, Pulitzer Prize winner Gary Snyder, and others. The appearance of numerous other prominent figures from the literary, political, and art community further underscore the enormous social impact Ferlinghetti's legacy continues to have on the American cultural scene. As he reads from A Coney Island of the Mind, Ferlinghetti manifests what it means to be a rebel poet, a renegade publisher and a true bearer of the Whitman tradition. And despite being the bestselling poet in modern literature, his place in the history of American literature was not carved out by his pen alone. With his publishing house at City Lights, he has championed the writings of countless other writers and continues to turn successive generations on to poetry. This film hopes to further educate the general public as to why Lawrence Ferlinghetti is easily one of the preeminent figures of modern political activism and perhaps the most influential artist in the history of American literature since the 1950s.

About Lawrence Ferlinghetti

As poet, playwright, publisher, and activist, Lawrence Ferlinghetti helped to spark the San Francisco literary renaissance of the 1950s and the subsequent "Beat" movement. Like the Beats, Ferlinghetti felt strongly that art should be accessible to all people, not just a handful of highly educated intellectuals. His career has been marked by its constant challenge of the status quo; his poetry engages readers, defies popular political movements, and reflects the influence of American idiom and modern jazz. In Lawrence Ferlinghetti: Poet-at-Large, Larry Smith noted that the author "writes truly memorable poetry, poems that lodge themselves in the consciousness of the reader and generate awareness and change. And his writing sings, with the sad and comic music of the streets."

Ferlinghetti was essential to the establishment of the Beat movement. His City Lights bookstore provided a gathering place for the fertile talents of the San Francisco literary renaissance, and the bookstore's publishing arm, the "Pocket Poets" series, offered a forum for Beat writers like Allen Ginsberg, Kenneth Patchen and Gregory Corso. As Smith noted in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, "What emerges from the historical panorama of Ferlinghetti's involvement is a pattern of social engagement and literary experimentation as he sought to expand the goals of the Beat movement." Smith added, however, that Ferlinghetti's contribution far surpasses his tasks as a publisher and organizer. "Besides molding an image of the poet in the world," the critic continued, "he created a poetic form that is at once rhetorically functional and socially vital." Ferlinghetti himself alleges that he never wrote "Beat" poetry. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle reporter Heidi Benson, Ferlinghetti explained why he preferred the term "wide-open": "Wide-open poetry refers to what Pablo Neruda told me in Cuba in 1950 at the beginning of the Fidelista revolution: Neruda said, 'I love your wide-open poetry.' He was either referring to the wide-ranging content of my poetry, or, in a different mode, to the poetry of the Beats..."

Ferlinghetti was born Lawrence Monsanto Ferling. His father, an Italian immigrant, had shortened the family name upon arrival in America. Ferlinghetti discovered the lengthier name and took it as his own when he was an adult. Ferlinghetti had a tumultuous youth, parts of which were spent in France, a state orphanage in New York, and in the mansion of the wealthy Bisland family in Bronxville, New York. Young Ferlinghetti endeared himself to the Bislands to such an extent that when his aunt, their governess, disappeared suddenly, he was allowed to stay. Ferlinghetti's formal education included the elite Riverdale Country Day School, Mount Hermon, a preparatory academy in Massachusetts, and the University of North Carolina where he majored in journalism and worked with the student staff of the Daily Tarheel. Upon graduating, he joined the U.S. Navy. After his discharge Ferlinghetti took advantage of the G.I. Bill to continue his education. He received his master's degree from Columbia University in 1948, and completed his doctoral degree at the University of Paris in 1951.

Ferlinghetti left Paris in 1951 and moved to San Francisco. In 1953 he joined with Peter D. Martin to publish a magazine, City Lights. In order to subsidize the magazine, Martin and Ferlinghetti opened the City Lights Pocket Book Shop in a neighborhood on the edge of Chinatown. Before long the City Lights Book Shop was a popular gathering place for San Francisco's avant-garde writers, poets, and painters. "We were filling a big need," Ferlinghetti told the New York Times Book Review. "City Lights became about the only place around where you could go in, sit down, and read books without being pestered to buy something. That's one of the things it was supposed to be. Also, I had this idea that a bookstore should be a center of intellectual activity; and I knew it was a natural for a publishing company too."

In addition to his new career as an entrepreneur, Ferlinghetti was busy creating his own poetry, and in 1955 he launched the City Lights Pocket Poets publishing venture. First in the "Pocket Poets" series was a slim volume of his own, Pictures of the Gone World. In Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Smith observed that, from his earliest poems onwards, the author writes as "the contemporary man of the streets speaking out the truths of common experience, often to the reflective beat of the jazz musician. As much as any poet today he...sought to make poetry an engaging oral art." Such sentiments found an appreciative audience among young people of the mid-twentieth century who were agonizing over the arms race and cold war politics. By 1955 Ferlinghetti counted among his friends such poets as Kenneth Rexroth, Allen Ginsberg, and Philip Whalen, as well as the novelist Jack Kerouac. Ferlinghetti was in the audience at the watershed 1955 poetry reading "Six Poets at the Six Gallery," at which Ginsberg unveiled his poem Howl. Ferlinghetti immediately recognized it as a classic and offered to publish it in the "Pocket Poets" series. The first edition of Howl and Other Poems appeared in 1956 and sold out quickly. The second shipment of the book--seized by U.S. customs, then released--occasioned the infamous Howl trial when the San Francisco Police Department arrested Ferlinghetti on charges of printing and selling lewd and indecent material. Ferlinghetti engaged the American Civil Liberties Union for his defense and welcomed his court case as a test of freedom of speech. Not only did he win the suit on October 3, 1957, he also benefitted from the publicity generated by the case. The case was vital in energizing the San Francisco renaissance and Beat cause, establishing definite principles to the various movements' often disparate aims.

For Ferlinghetti, these "principles" included redeeming poetry from the ivory towers of academia and offering it as a shared experience with ordinary people. In 1958 New York's New Directions press published Ferlinghetti's A Coney Island of the Mind, a work that has since sold well over one million copies in America and abroad. In Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Smith suggested that the poems in A Coney Island of the Mind demonstrate the direction Ferlinghetti intended to go with his art. The poet "enlarged his stance and developed major themes of anarchy, mass corruption, engagement, and a belief in the surreality and wonder of life," he wrote. "It was a revolutionary art of dissent and contemporary application which jointly drew a lyric poetry into new realms of social--and self-expression. It sparkles, sings, goes flat, and generates anger or love out of that flatness as it follows a basic motive of getting down to reality and making of it what we can." Smith concluded: "There are some classic contemporary statements in this, Ferlinghetti's--and possibly America's--most popular book of modern poetry. The work is remarkable for its skill, depth, and daring."

Two collections of Ferlinghetti's poetry provide insight into the development of the writer's overarching style and thematic approach: Endless Life: Selected Poems (1984) and These Are My Rivers: New and Selected Poems, 1955-1993 (1993). The poems in Endless Life reflect the influences of e. e. cummings, Kenneth Rexroth, and Kenneth Patchen and are concerned with contemporary themes, such as the antiwar and antinuclear movements. John Trimbur in Western American Literature noted that Ferlinghetti writes a "public poetry to challenge the guardians of the political and social status quo for the souls of his fellow citizens." Joel Oppenheimer praised the poet in the New York Times Book Review, contending that Ferlinghetti "learned to write poems, in ways that those who see poetry as the province of the few and the educated had never imagined." Ferlinghetti focuses on current political and sexual matters in These Are My Rivers (1993). As Rochelle Ratner noted in Library Journal, the poems are experimental in technique, often lacking common poetic devices such as stanza breaks, and they appear in unusual ways on the page, "with short lines at the left margin or moving across the page as hand follows eye." Yet, Ashley Brown commented in World Literature Today, "Ferlinghetti writes in a very accessible idiom; he draws on pop culture and sports as much as the modern poets whom he celebrates." Ratner averred that "Ferlinghetti is the foremost chronicler of our times." Indeed, the collection shows "Ferlinghetti still speaking out against academic poetry just as he did when the Beat Movement began," remarked Varner in Western American Literature. "Ferlinghetti, always the poet of the topical now, still sees clearly the 1990s," the critic added.

Drama and fiction have also proved a fertile ground for Ferlinghetti. He has carried his political philosophies and social criticisms into experimental plays, many of them short and surrealistic. Ferlinghetti's first novel, Her (1960) is an autobiographical, experimental work that focuses on the narrator's pursuit of a woman. Though the novel received very little critical comment when it was published, Ferlinghetti next novel, Love in the Days of Rage (1988), won wide-spread acclaim. The chronicle of a love affair between an expatriate American painter named Annie, and a Parisian banker of Portuguese extraction named Julian, the novel takes place against the backdrop of 1968 Paris, during the student revolution that took place during that year. Alex Raksin, discussing Love in the Days of Rage in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, praised the work as an "original, intense novel" in which Ferlinghetti's "sensitivity as a painter...is most apparent." Patrick Burson, critiquing for the San Francisco Review of Books, explained that the book challenges the reader on several stylistic levels as it attempts to mirror the anarchistic uprising of '68 which briefly united intellectuals, artists, and proletariats in common cause."

Ferlinghetti continues to operate the City Lights bookstore and travels frequently to give poetry readings. His paintings and drawings have been exhibited in San Francisco galleries; his plays have been performed in experimental theaters. He also continues to publish new poetry, including the 1997 collection A Far Rockaway of the Heart, which is to some degree a follow-up to A Coney Island of the Mind. In 2001 he published two books: How to Paint Sunlight: Lyric Poems and Others, 1997-2000 and San Francisco Poems. Poetry as Insurgent Art was published in 2005. The "collection of remarks, aphorisms and exhortations about the nature and purpose of poetry began in the late 1950s," according a review in Publisher's Weekly. The reviewer thought, however, that fans of Ferlinghetti are sure to find "reason and justice in these eternal verities, couched in up-to-date lingo." The New York Times Book Review correspondent Joel Oppenheimer cited Ferlinghetti's work for "a legitimate revisionism which is perhaps our best heritage from those raucous [Beat] days--the poet daring to see a different vision from that which the guardians of culture had allowed us." As New Pages contributor John Gill concluded, reading a work by Ferlinghetti "will make you feel good about poetry and about the world--no matter how mucked-up the world may be."

Filmmaker Biographies

Christopher Felver (Director / Producer)

Christopher Felver is a photographer and filmmaker with solo photographic exhibitions at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Torino Fotografia Biennale Internazionale, Fahey/Klein Gallery in Los Angeles, and Robert Berman Gallery in Los Angeles. He participated in the 53rd Venice International Film Festival. The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the New York Public Library, and the Museum of Fine Art in Boston have presented retrospectives of his films: John Cage Talks About Cows, Cecil Taylor: All the Notes, West Coast: "Beat & Beyond", Taken by the Romans, Donald Judd's Marfa Texas, Tony Cragg: In Celebration of Sculpture, California Clay in the Rockies, and The Coney Island of Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Mr. Felver's books are The Late Great Allen Ginsberg, Seven Days in Nicaragua Libre, The Poet Exposed, Ferlinghetti Portrait, Angels, Anarchists & Gods, The Importance of Being and Beat. His work is collected in libraries and museums worldwide.

Rick Depofi (Composer)

Rick Depofi's credits: (Producer/Arranger/Musician): The Wreckers Stand Still, Look Pretty (Grammy + CMA nominations); Joan Osborne How Sweet It Is ; Michelle Branch Hotel Paper (title track); Shawn Colvin These Four Walls; Kelly Clarkson Anymore (Engineer); Elvis Costello Ring of Fire + Don't Put Her Down (Engineer); Elvis Costello & Rosann Cash My Better Years duet (Engineer); Vieux Farka Toure (Engineer); Marc Cohn, Natalie Cole, Janet Jackson, Diana Ross, Grover Washington Jr., Loudon Wainwright III Feature Film Credits (Producer/Arranger/Musician); The Prince & Me, Raising Helen, Silver City, Mind of The Married Man Documentary Feature Film/TV Song Credits (Producer/Arranger/Musician); Marc Cohn Man of the World + I Hope That I Don't Fall In Love Again/The Prince & Me (Paramount); Joan Osborne Stand Back/Raising Helen (Touchstone); Joan Osborne America The Beautiful/Silver City (Columbia TriStar); Marc Cohn I Love My Wife/Mind of The Married Man (HBO).

Brett Marty (Editor)

Brett Marty is a photographer and filmmaker based in San Francisco, California, from the Department of Art Practice at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a press photographer for FiveThirtyEight, a political blog currently nominated for Best Political Blog, Best New Blog, and Blog of the Year for the 2008 Weblog Awards.

Bruce Ricker (Co-Producer)

Bruce Ricker has directed and/or produced documentaries on a wide-ranging study of American culture. In 1982 Ricker started Rhapsody Films which would specialize in making and distributing jazz and blues films. In 1987 he began a collaborative relationship with Clint Eastwood, accumulating a body of work that includes: Tony Bennett, The Music Never Ends; Budd Boetticher: A Man Can Do That; Clint Eastwood's Piano Blues; and Thelonius Monk: Straight No Chaser.

Interviewee Biographies

David Amram started jazz/poetry readings in 1957 at New York's Circle in the Square with Jack Kerouac and others. He wrote music for the beat classic film Pull My Daisy, and has composed more than 100 orchestral works and scores for Broadway, theater and film. He continues to compose music while traveling the world as a conductor, soloist, band leader and visiting scholar.

Amiri Baraka began his career as a writer, activist, and advocate of black culture and political power. His play, The Dutchman, received the Off Broadway award for the best American play of 1963-64. He founded Totem Press, publishing new literary voices of the Beat Generation. His writings continue to denounce racism and advocate scientific socialism.

Erik Bauersfeld is a leading American radio dramatist of the post-television era. He was the director of drama and literature at KPFA from 1966 to 1991. Bauersfeld is a long-time friend of Ferlinghetti's, and has collaborated with Ear Wax Productions on large-scale radio broadcasts for NPR and Pacifica Radio archives.

Billy Collins was born in New York City in 1941. He is the author of several books of poetry and was named U.S. Poet Laureate in 2001. Other honors and awards include fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation.

Giada Diano is a scholar and translator, and author of Ferlinghetti's European biography, Io sono come Omero. She is a professor at l'Universita di Messina and l'Universita di Cantania in Sicily, and collaborates with City Lights Books on Italian translations.

Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter, author, poet, and painter, who has been a major figure in popular music for five decades. Much of Dylan's most celebrated work dates from the 1960s, when he became an informal chronicler and a reluctant figurehead of American unrest. A number of his songs, such as Blowin' in the Wind and The Times They Are a-Changin', became anthems of both the civil rights movements and of those opposed to the Vietnam War. Dylan's early lyrics incorporated political, social, philosophical, and literary influences, defying existing pop music conventions and appealing widely to the counterculture.

Dave Eggers is the founder of McSweeney's, an independent publishing house that produces a quarterly literary journal. Eggers' first book, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and his most recent novel, What Is the What, was a nominated for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award. He has established himself as a philanthropist and teacher-at-large at 826 Valencia, a San Francisco-based writing and tutoring lab for young people.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, founder City Lights Books, is a living monument to America's counter-culture. His book, The Coney Island of the Mind, is the most popular volume of poetry in the American literary canon. For well over half a century, he helped shape the currents of poetry and literature through his forceful engagement with society and his ideological position that often found him at odds with the political attitudes of his day. Author of over 50 books of poetry and criticism, Ferlinghetti remains an active presence in the San Francisco literary scene.

Lorenzo Ferlinghetti, the son of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, is an arborist, surfer, and inventor. He lives in Bolinas, CA, with his wife and 2 children.

Allen Ginsberg attended Columbia University and where he struck up close friendships with William Burroughs, Neal Cassady, and Jack Kerouac. In 1954 he moved to San Francisco where his mentor, William Carlos Williams introduced him to key figures of the San Francisco poetry scene. Ginsberg's seminal performance of Howl at the Six Gallery reading signaled the birth of the Beat Generation and a new era in modern America poetry. Subsequently, Ferlinghetti, who attended the reading, published Howl, setting the precedent for literary free speech.

Herb Gold is a novelist, travel writer, and author who studied philosophy at Columbia University where he became involved with the burgeoning Beat Generation. In the 50s he lived in Paris on a Fulbright, and wrote his first novel, The Prospect Before Us. In the 60s, Gold finally settled in San Francisco, where he continues to be a revered fixture in the literary scene.

Jack Hirschman, renowned author and translator, received a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Indiana University in 1959. His first major book of poetry, A Correspondence of Americans, was published in 1960. While teaching at UCLA, Hirschman protested the war in Vietnam, was fired for his alleged activities against the state, and in 1980 joined a communist labor party. As San Francisco's poet laureate, Hirschman remains an organizer and participant in political activities surrounding issues of homelessness, immigration, and police brutality.

Dennis Hopper's odyssey has been one of Hollywood's longest and strangest trips. As a director, photographer, artist, and Academy Award nominee, he has defined a generation with his body of work. Hopper's association with L.A.'s seminal Ferris Gallery in the 50s brought him lasting friendships with the emerging writers and artists of that era.

Jean-Jacques Lebel is a French conceptualist artist born in Paris. He is a producer of more than 70 shows, performances, and art actions in the 60s across the continent, and continues his pictorial, literary and political activities. In the 60's he translated and published the work of his friends, Ginsberg, Corso, Burroughs, McClure and Ferlinghetti. His work is featured in many European museums.

Michael McClure came to San Francisco as a young man. He was quickly drawn into the emerging Beat vortex of the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance, and participated in the legendary 1955 Six Gallery reading. He has a special interest in the animal consciousness that too often lies dormant in mankind. His play, The Beard, received two Obies and sparked numerous censorship and free speech battles. McClure is still active as a poet, essayist, and performs with Ray Manzarek and Terry Riley.

David Meltzer moved to San Francisco in the 50s and became part of a circle of writers surrounding poets Jack Spicer and Robert Duncan. He participated in the legendary Six Gallery reading and is one of the key poets of the Beat Generation. Meltzer is also a jazz guitarist, a Cabalist scholar, and author of more than 50 books of poetry and prose.

Bill Morgan is a freelance archival consultant, bibliographer and editor, and has worked in close collaboration with Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg. He has published two fascinating guidebooks on the Beat Generation, and his latest book, I Celebrate Myself: The Private Life of Allen Ginsberg, was recently featured in the New York Times.

Kenneth Rexroth, an American poet, translator, and critical essayist, was among the first poets in the US to explore traditional Japanese poetic forms. He identified himself as a philosophical anarchist, and was active in the IWW movement. Rexroth was MC at the Six Gallery reading, and as a result of his KPFA radio broadcasts and literary salons became known as the paterfamillias of the San Francisco Renaissance.

Robert Scheer worked at City Lights Books in San Francisco, and co-authored the book, Cuba, an American tragedy (1964), with Maurice Zeitlin. Between 1964 and 1969, he served as the Vietnam correspondent, managing editor, and editor-in-chief of Ramparts magazine. Scheer is currently editor in chief of Truthdig, an on-line magazine he co-launched in 2005. Scheer appears weekly on the nationally syndicated Left, Right & Center.

Gary Snyder, born in 1930, is an American poet often associated with the Beat Generation and the San Francisco Renaissance. He is an essayist, lecturer, and environmental activist, and was the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize for his book of poetry, Turtle Island. Snyder's work reflects an immersion in both Buddhist spirituality and nature. He translates literature into English from ancient Chinese and modern Japanese, and for many years served as a faculty member at the University of California, Davis, as well as on the California Arts Council.

Anne Waldman, a prominent figure in the beat poetry generation, ran the St. Mark's Poetry Project from 1966 until 1978, reading with fellow poets such as Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso. Following her departure from St. Mark's, she and Ginsberg founded the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. She has received numerous awards and honors, and remains active as poet, teacher, translator, and editor of anthologies.

George Whitman, Ferlinghetti's oldest friend, is proprietor of the renowned expatriate Paris bookstore, Shakespeare & Co. Since the 50s, the bookstore has provided a sanctuary for hundreds of poets, writers, and artists. Whitman and Ferlinghetti attended the Sorbonne together in the 40s, and have made literature and the avant-garde their life-long commitment.

Sylvia Whitman, daughter of Shakespeare & Co. founder George Whitman, inherited her role as proprietor of this famous Beat Generation hangout. She is the director of the annual Shakespeare & Co. Literary Festival, and refers to Ferlinghetti, her father's oldest friend, as her "surrogate parent."