From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Lawrence Ferlinghetti (born
March 24, 1919) is
an American poet, painter,liberal
activist, and the co-founder of City
Lights Booksellers & Publishers. Author of poetry, translations, fiction,
theatre, art criticism, and film narration, he is best known for A
Coney Island of the Mind (New
Directions, 1958), a collection of poems that has been translated into
nine languages, with sales of over 1 million copies.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti was born in Yonkers,
New York on March 24, 1919. His
mother, née Clemence Albertine Mendes-Monsanto was of French and Sephardic-Portugueseheritage.
His father, Carlo Ferlinghetti, was born in Brescia, Italy in
1872. He immigrated to the United States in 1892, and worked as an auctioneer
in Little Italy, NYC. At some unknown point, Carlo Ferlinghetti shortened the
family name to "Ferling," and Lawrence wouldn't learn of his original name
until 1942, when he had to provide a birth certificate to join the US Navy.
Though he used "Ferling" for his earliest published work, Ferlinghetti
reverted to the original Italian "Ferlinghetti" in 1955, when publishing his
first book of poems, Pictures of
the Gone World.
Ferlinghetti's father died six months before he was born, and his mother was
committed to an asylum shortly after his birth. He was raised by his French
aunt Emily, former wife of Ludovico Monsanto, an uncle of his mother from the
Virgin Islands who taught Spanish at the U.S. Naval Academy. Emily took
where they lived during his first five years, with French as his first
After their return to the U.S., Ferlinghetti was placed in an orphanage in
Chappaqua, N.Y. while Emily looked for employment. She was eventually hired as
a French governess for the daughter of Presley Eugene Bisland and his wife
Anna Lawrence Bisland, in Bronxville,
New York, the latter being the daughter of the founder of Sarah
Lawrence College, William Van Deuzer Lawrence. In 1926, Ferlinghetti was
left in the care of the Bislands. After attending various schools, including
Riverdale Country School, Bronxville Public School, and Mount Hermon School
Mount Hermon School), he went to the University
of North Carolina in Chapel
Hill, where he earned a B.A. in journalism in 1941. Lawrence Ferlinghetti is
Scout in theBoy
Scouts of America. His
sports journalism was published in The
Daily Tar Heel, and he published his first short stories in Carolina
Magazine, for which Thomas
Wolfe had written.
In the summer of 1941, he lived with two college mates on Little Whale Boat
Island in Casco Bay, Maine, lobster fishing, and raking moss from rocks to be
sold in Portland, Maine, for pharmaceutical use. This experience gave him a
love of the sea, a theme that runs through much of his poetry. After the
December 7, 1941, Japanese attack onPearl
Harbor, Ferlinghetti enrolled in Midshipmen’s school in Chicago, and in
1942 shipped out as junior officer on J.
P. Morgan III's yacht, which had been refitted to patrol for submarines
off the East Coast.
Ferlinghetti was next assigned to the Ambrose Lightship outside New York
harbor, to identify all incoming ships. In 1943 and 1944 he served as an
officer on three U.S. Navy subchasers used
as convoy escorts. As commander of the subchaser USS SC1308, he was at the Normandy invasion
as part of the anti-submarine screen around the beaches. After VE
Day, the Navy transferred him to the Pacific Theater, where he served as
navigator of the troop ship USS Selinur. Six weeks after the
atomic bomb fell on Nagasaki,
he visited the ruins of the city, an experience that turned him into a
University & The Sorbonne
After the war, he worked briefly in the mailroom at Time
magazine, in Manhattan.
G.I. Bill then enabled him to
enroll in the Columbia
University graduate school.
Among his professors there were Babette
Barzun, and Mark
Van Doren. In those years he was reading modern literature, and has said
he was at that time influenced particularly by Shakespeare, Marlowe,
Gerard Manley Hopkins, and James
Joyce, as well as American poets Whitman, T.
S. Eliot, Ezra
e. cummings, and American novelists Thomas
Hemingway, and John
Dos Passos. He earned a master’s degree in English literature in 1947 with
a thesis on John
Ruskin and the British painter J.
M. W. Turner. From Columbia, he went to Paris to
continue his studies, and lived in the city between 1947 and 1951, earning a
Doctorat de l’Université de Paris, with a “mention très honorable.” His two
theses were on the city as a symbol in modern poetry and on the nature of