A Far Rockaway of the Heart, Lawrence Ferlinghetti 1997
It’s National Poetry Month and also Ferlinghetti’s 100th birthday, so what could be more appropriate than to read one of his more than 30 books of poetry. This volume was available on the shelf at the Cambridge Public Library, so why not, and I was thrilled to read his work, my first exposure to it. As one critic has said, Ferlinghetti brings a ‘loving outrage and an energetic reverence’ to his observations about the world, and this book is full of them. In poems without titles, numbered #1 through#101, he takes us from New York to California, from Rome to Athens, and from the quotidian to the heavenly. Love, both emotional and physical, as well as the beauty and impermanence of human life compared to nature are his primary topics and the pages are full of beautiful phrases, lines, and ideas. Calling out to his predecessors, Pound, Neruda, Whitman, Eliot and others, he finds his own voice, one filled with humor, acute observation, sadness and resignation to the temporality of it all, a bit ironic given that he is still going strong at 100 years and one month! Writing about catching a fish by the Bronx River Parkway, he writes ‘Swept away!/And I with it/In flood of time.” Later he writes about his painting referring to ‘the open paint can/full of unknown alphabets.’ His musings on poetry are worth noting in the vast literature that aims to capture the fleeting beauty and importance of his literary form: ‘And every poem and every picture/a sensation in the eye and the heart/Something that jolts you awake/from the rapt sleep of living/ in a flash of pure epiphany/where all stands still/in a diamond light/transfixes/revealed/for what it truly is/in all its mystery.” Reading this was a treat.