The Passion of the Weiss

Sometimes I rhyme slow, sometimes I rhyme quick. But most of the time, I don't rhyme.

Friday, November 18, 2005

And the Beat Goes On (I know...I know, I Just Couldn't Resist)

I am many things (slightly mentally challenged, completely condescending, a bit too hipsterish for my own good) but I am certain that I am no quitter. And just like that I've returned to continue the "Fridays are Fun days" momentum that I've been building here at the Passion.

This latest post concerns a recent Los Angeles Times article about Beat Generation icon/poet/entrepreneur Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the founder of City Lights Books in San Francisco and a major poet in his own right. Now I'm well aware that reading a poem isn't nearly as much fun as trying to spot Paris Hilton at Koi, but it IS almost as much fun as going to Blowfish. So I'd say it's about a 7.2 on a coolness richter scale.

The article captures the portrait of the 86 year old artist who this week received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Book Foundation. While his politics remain a bit radical for my tastes, Ferlinghetti is undoubtedly a brilliant writer and represents one of the few figures from the last 50 years that hasn't completely sold out (yeah, I'm looking at you Bob "Victoria's Secret/Starbucks" Dylan. To prove this point, here are some quotes from the article that explain the excellence of Ferlinghetti.

"Allen Ginsberg was a major force in American poetry and he never got much recognition from the literary establishment. He never got a Pulitzer, he never got a Nobel Prize," Ferlinghetti said, lounging in blue jeans and a black sweater against a wall of windows with a sweeping sunset view of cafes, bars and glowing strip-joint lights in North Beach. "I think it's an honor, but I still consider myself a dissident," he said, his arresting blue eyes gazing brightly from a kind and surprisingly smooth-skinned face.

Being the complete jerk that I am, I find something wonderful in the fact that after writing for 50 some-odd years, Ferlinghetti is still angry (a role model for me if there ever was one.)

Here are more surprisingly self-effacing gems from one of the last great writers of his generation.

"My poetry had a very different aesthetic," he insisted. "The Jack Kerouac school of disembodied poetics is 'first thought, best thought,' where you write down the first thing that comes to mind, to get close to the essential being of yourself," Ferlinghetti said, referring to the author of "On the Road" and "The Dharma Bums.""My poems were not written that way," he said. "I think it can sometimes be 'first thought, worst thought,' unless you have an original genius mind like Allen Ginsberg and everything that comes out of that mind is interesting." With less original minds, he said, the method produces "acres and acres of boring poetry."

And as the article concludes, Ferlinghetti shows us young whippersnappers (sorry, I've always wanted to get that phrase in print, that and the phrase "by jove," there I've done it, I can die a happy man) that there is more to life than being really really ridiculously good looking.

"The dominant culture of technology and big business and big government is not the important lasting culture of our civilization," Ferlinghetti said. "The important culture of our civilization is the literary and artistic and intellectual culture. That's the mainstream, and I'm proud to be part of that."

So this weekend, when you're at wondering what to do between lines of coke and/or bong rips and/or vodka shots, go to a bookstore and get one of Lawrence Ferlinghetti's books. I recommend either "Coney Island of the Mind," or "Starting From San Francisco." And while you're at it pick up "The Da Vinci Code," because I hear that book is deep. Really fucking deep.


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