Bob Dylan and Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Wikipedia entry about Lawrence Ferlinghetti:
Michael Gray’s Bob Dylan Encyclopedia has an entry about Ferlinghetti and his connection to Bob Dylan, as well as a reference to times Dylan has name-checked and referenced Ferlinghetti:
Ferlinghetti, Lawrence [1919 – ]
Ferlinghetti, born in Yonkers, New York, on March 24, 1919, became one of the most influential figures of the Beat Generation. He was a publisher – and was arrested for publishing GINSBERG’s Howl in 1955 – as well as a poet: and not the usual self-taught poet – he studied at the University of North Carolina, Columbia University and the Sorbonne. He co-founded the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, where he moved in 1951 after working for Time in New York City. City Lights was an important rendezvous, talkshop and publishing house for experimental writers.
Unsurprisingly, then, he is the Beat poet whose work most noticeably includes constant allusions to others’ texts and titles – a feature we recognise as characteristic in Dylan’s 1960s poetry, in Tarantula and throughout his songs. Ferlinghetti’s poem ‘Autobiography’ includes allusions to Eliot, Matthew Arnold, Thomas Wolfe, Allen Ginsberg, Woody Guthrie, Wordsworth, Thoreau and Melville.
Letter to Larry
On 28 April 1964 (date of the postmark), Bob Dylan wrote a prose-poem letter to Lawrence Ferlinghetti after calling on him a couple of months earlier (20 February 1964) and finding him not home.
have no sports car.
traffic moving slowly thru tunnel.
breeze is from the west an I ahah am goin
t france tomorrow. have t look thru all my pants pockets
an collect things t send t you.
as of now I am in the midst of destroyin all I’ve
done (I’ve even crashed my old typewriter t pieces an have burned my
pens into little tiny plastic statues)
I know I will send you something one of these days.
all I have t do is finish something t send you.
in any case, if I am poisened or framed or kilt orratted on
I will will will you some edgar lee masters?
type (bob dylan written) poems of grand embarassment.
thelonius monk grand style grand (me upright)
the world’s fair begun down there.
Sailin on (across the sone) son,
sawn. dawn. anyway I’m gone.
I’m up here.
my adress is me-bearsville. just got back from trip t boston area.
sung songs at providence.
arrived in amhearst with 15 friends from cambridge.
left providence with 15 friends from providence.
ditched them on highway tho. (yes I pledge alliegence t the luckyness of havin
some so many friends.)
an here’s t the republic.
up the irish.
ah yes my flag has turned into one color.
ha you must be joking. I’m not turnin. burnin. maybe smokin.
not running cunning.
I aint none of them things.
yes most deffinately would like t borrow cabin at big sur.
cant say when.
it just hit me.
I do got things of songs an stories for you.
my hangup is tho that I know there will be more.
I want t send the more more then I want t send the got.
yes I guess that’s it.
that’s it in a nutshell pruneskin.
that’s the whole story.
nothin but the truth.
nothin but the nothin.
would’ve liked t spent more time in san francisco.
would like t spend more time in many places.
sometime I will.
someday I will.
tomorrow. yeah tomorrow.
I a, in a strange light alright.
I remember a few years ago.
ridin the rods all wrong.
hitchhiking (pretending stock markets crashin all over me) thru the ever ready
usa. guitar on my back.
my thoughful tool.
yes an the only thing I wished was that someday I’d be able t come back
t these fucked up shootin gallery pay me for my playin coffee houses.
oh how I used t hope that someday if nothin else. I’d have enuff friends or
know the right people t survive with my head at least as groovy as
theirs … man.
I never got a chance.
I got a motorcycle tho.
but unlike the last ones I had on south dakota an minnesota roads,
this one’s for the fields.
so you see, after all, I’m not really going all that fast.
you cant go too fast in the fields you know.
the only thing that’s wrong is that there’s no fuckin motels.
absolutely no advertising.
I’m the first one hit by the forest fires an god knows that a fallout
shelter’d be insane.
terrible buzzard flies an my front steps all loaded with killed dear
hit by cars … yet I still wave t airplanes
an shit like that (what whit like that?) so I’m not all bad.
yes I’ve chopped much wood.
I’ll write you later an send clippings from my head.
as for now there’s a horn honkin.
must be for me.
or however you spell that.
will be in france for awhile.
someplace where they dont read life magazine.
of course I’ll be back tho.
an will be out in sanfrancisco again.
I have nothin t do.
an no place t go.
say hi for me.
say hi t anybody
see you then
homogenized. egg creamed. pie in the faced
egg in the eyed
untied. complyed. plywooded. do-gooded. hooded.
lamp shaded understated hated backdated
muscatelled. muscatold musca went wrong someplace
displaced. cock traced
embraced umbraced ohbraced
an all that
see you then
City Lights Bookstore
In 1953, Lawrence Ferlinghetti founded the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, which also houses the nonprofit City Lights Foundation which publishes cultural titles.
City Lights Wikipedia entry:
City Lights website:
Bob Dylan visited the City Lights Bookstore in December 1965 and a series of photographs (potentially for the Blonde on Blonde album cover) were taken in the alleyway behind the store by Larry Keenan, Dale Smith and Jim Marshall.
Larry Keenan recalls on the City Lights website:
“This session was arranged the night before at a party after Bob Dylan’s concert at the Berkeley Community Theater. Allen Ginsberg introduced me to Dylan and we arranged to do a photo session (for the Blonde on Blonde album) the same day as the Beat’s last gathering at City Lights Books. At City Lights we hid out in the basement with Dylan and when the people started to break the door down we climbed out a window and ran down the alley and took this photograph. I was in college and living at home during the Beat period. I had to mow the lawn before I could borrow the car and go to San Francisco to shoot this photo and the City Lights Books last gathering of the Beats event.”
Bob Dylan played Berkley Community Theatre, Berkley, California, on 4 December 1965. Therefore these photos were probably taken on 5 December 1965.
See a collection of Dale Smith’s photos of the day here:
Larry Keenan’s photographs:
Bob Dylan talking about Lawrence Ferlinghetti
“I suppose I was looking for what I read in “On the Road” – looking for the city looking for the speed, the sound of it, looking for what Allen Ginsberg had called the “hydrogen jukebox world”. Maybe I’d lived there all my life, I didn’t know, but nobody ever called it that. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, one of the other Beat poets, had called it “The kiss proof world of plastic toilet seats, Tampax and taxis”.”
— Dylan, Chronicles, Vol. 1, “River of Ice”, p.235.
__ __ __
I came out of the wilderness and just naturally fell in with the beat scene, the bohemian, Be Bop crowd, it was all pretty much connected… it was Jack Keroac, Ginsburg, Corso, Ferlinghetti… I got in at the tail end of that and it was magic.
There were always a lot of poems recited – ‘Into the room people come and go talking of Michelangelo, measuring their lives in coffeespoons’… ‘What I’d like to know is what do you think of your blue-eyed boy now, Mr. Death.’ T.S. Eliot, e.e. cummings… Suzie Rotolo, a girlfriend of mine in New York, later turned me on to all the French poets but for then it was Jack Kerouac, Ginsberg, Corso and Ferlinghetti – Gasoline, Coney Island of the Mind… oh man, it was wild – I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness… On the Road, Dean Moriarty, this made perfect sense to me… it had just as big an impact on me as Elvis Presley. Pound, Camus, T.S. Eliot, e.e. cummings, mostly expatriate Americans who were off in Paris and Tangiers. Burroughs, Nova Express, John Rechy, Gary Snyder, Ferlinghetti, Pictures from the Gone World, the newer poets and folk music…
— Bob Dylan interview with Cameron Crowe for Biograph, August-September 1985
__ __ __
From Theme Time Radio Hour – episode 4, Baseball:
Next we have a baseball canto by Lawrnce Ferlinghetti, a well-known poet who lived in San Franciso. He started the City Lights bookstore, his publication of Allen Ginsburrg’s “Howl” in 1956 led to his arest on obscenity charges. He was a brave man, and a brave poet.
“Watching Baseball, sitting in the sun, eating popcorn, reading Ezra Pound and wishing that Juan Marashel would hit a hole right through the Anglo Saxon tradition in the first canto and demolish the Barbarian invaders.
“Well, why don’t I let Larry say the rest of it?”
And from Theme Time Radio Hour episode 16, Dogs:
Next up is a song that was written by our old buddy Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “Dog.”
Photograph courtesy of Dale Smith – City Lights bookstore, December 1965.
L-R: Michael McClure, Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
(l-r) Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan and Peter and Julian Orlofsky photographed by Ettore Sottsass, San Francisco, USA 1965Dylan isn’t wearing his polka dot shirt so this must be some other occasion than when he was photographed at the City Lights Bookstore and in the alleyway outside while he was in San Francisco during early December 1965.
(Day By Day, C. Heylin): December 2, 1965 – Arriving in San Francisco, Dylan has supper with beat poets Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti at a Japanese restaurant. They then head to La Tosca Café, before ending the evening at Mike’s Bar.