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Today is Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s Birthday. He’s known for a lot of things but first he was a Beat Poet and then he opened a bookstore in San Francisco called City Lights.

This is a repost from some time ago.

I think I must have written this before the disastrous American Presidential Election of 2016. Today the $600 billion tax cut for the 2% masquerading as a new health care bill failed miserably. There is still a lot of work to do. There are still too many people without affordable health care, too many children living in poverty but at least we didn’t roll the clock back to much darker days.

As I read this again tonight in this time and place, I couldn’t help but reflect on how different my life is since I originally wrote it, maybe only five or six months ago. I couldn’t help but reflect on how different the world is. The changing pace of each day seems to be rapidly accelerating. We are all being pulled and pushed to be something greater, to create something greater.

However, this is a rambling memory of the day I first discovered his poetry, a very long time ago, a time I barely recognise now. Still… I catch myself smiling because I know I carry this little memory in my DNA now. It is as much a part of me as the air I breathe, as the beat of my heart.

Today, however, it has a special poignancy.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Ferlinghetti.

”We have to raise the consciousness; the only way poets can change the world is to raise the consciousness of the general populace.” ~ Lawrence Ferlinghetti

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He’s often forgotten as one of the great beat poets of the fifties and remembered more for opening City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco which is an amazing place. I’ve been several times now and I still regret not visiting it more.

When I was in my twenties Beat Poets made me think of Kerouac and Ginsberg. I knew of Ferlinghetti and City Lights Bookstore but I hadn’t read him.

One day I stumbled across this poem in an anthology of poetry in my local library.

He published it in 1958. I was probably 5.

I discovered it in the early 70s in the midst of the Vietnam War and anti-war protests, Buddhist monks setting themselves on fire in protest, and the civil rights movement and women fighting to be recognised and heard and LSD and music, so much music. The first concert I attended was to see Jimi Hendrix and then a little later, Led Zeppelin, in 1970. I had already lost my heart to a musician who would end up being the father of my child. It was a world in upheaval and tremendous creativity and alternative thinkers and hope and belief in our ability to create a better world and days of dark despair and colour everywhere. But most days you woke up filled with hope and determination and ended them with sadness and confusion or escaped for days in music and hallucinogens that made the world a prettier place.

And in the midst of all that I discovered this. I couldn’t stop reading it. I just sat in my library and read it over and over until I pulled out my journal and copied the entire poem in its pages. I think it was a defining moment for me. I don’t think I had truly grasped just how powerful words could be until then. I had an epiphany in my tiny local library.

So this one will always be my favourite Ferlinghetti poem:

I Am Waiting

BY LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI

I am waiting for my case to come up
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting for someone
to really discover America
and wail
and I am waiting
for the discovery
of a new symbolic western frontier
and I am waiting
for the American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right
and I am waiting
for the Age of Anxiety
to drop dead
and I am waiting
for the war to be fought
which will make the world safe
for anarchy
and I am waiting
for the final withering away
of all governments
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Second Coming
and I am waiting
for a religious revival
to sweep thru the state of Arizona
and I am waiting
for the Grapes of Wrath to be stored
and I am waiting
for them to prove
that God is really American
and I am waiting
to see God on television
piped onto church altars
if only they can find
the right channel
to tune in on
and I am waiting
for the Last Supper to be served again
with a strange new appetizer
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for my number to be called
and I am waiting
for the Salvation Army to take over
and I am waiting
for the meek to be blessed
and inherit the earth
without taxes
and I am waiting
for forests and animals
to reclaim the earth as theirs
and I am waiting
for a way to be devised
to destroy all nationalisms
without killing anybody
and I am waiting
for linnets and planets to fall like rain
and I am waiting for lovers and weepers
to lie down together again
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Great Divide to be crossed
and I am anxiously waiting
for the secret of eternal life to be discovered
by an obscure general practitioner
and I am waiting
for the storms of life
to be over
and I am waiting
to set sail for happiness
and I am waiting
for a reconstructed Mayflower
to reach America
with its picture story and tv rights
sold in advance to the natives
and I am waiting
for the lost music to sound again
in the Lost Continent
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the day
that maketh all things clear
and I am awaiting retribution
for what America did
to Tom Sawyer
and I am waiting
for Alice in Wonderland
to retransmit to me
her total dream of innocence
and I am waiting
for Childe Roland to come
to the final darkest tower
and I am waiting
for Aphrodite
to grow live arms
at a final disarmament conference
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting
to get some intimations
of immortality
by recollecting my early childhood
and I am waiting
for the green mornings to come again
youth’s dumb green fields come back again
and I am waiting
for some strains of unpremeditated art
to shake my typewriter
and I am waiting to write
the great indelible poem
and I am waiting
for the last long careless rapture
and I am perpetually waiting
for the fleeing lovers on the Grecian Urn
to catch each other up at last
and embrace
and I am awaiting
perpetually and forever
a renaissance of wonder

Original link from The Poetry Foundation website can be found

HERE

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