Journals, covering 1950 to 2013, will shed light on 94-year-old poet's political passions and relationships with Beat generation
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the poet who was tried on obscenity charges after publishing Allen Ginsberg's Howl and Other Poems in 1956, is to release his own travel journals, covering more than 60 years of his life.
Ferlinghetti, who at 94 is known as one of the last living connections with the Beat generation, sold the journals to Liveright Publishing, part of WW Norton, via Jack Kerouac's literary agent Sterling Lord, the New York Times revealed. Covering 1950 to 2013, and including travel journals and notebooks, the books tell of Ferlinghetti's travels to Cuba during the Castro revolution, to Africa, Haiti and Mexico, to Franco's Spain, Soviet Russia and Nicaragua under the Sandinistas, as well as the time he spent in Italy and France.
They will be brought together and published in September next year as Writing Across the Landscape: Travel Journals (1950-2013), said the New York Times, and will shed "as much light on Mr Ferlinghetti's political passions as on his relationships with the Beat writers", also covering his encounters with major writers such as Ezra Pound and Pablo Neruda.
"It shows a much more political Ferlinghetti, a voice for the poets of dissent," editor Robert Weil told the paper. "It is hardly just the Beats. It's a real engagement with much of the 20th century, although there are portraits of the Beats that we've never seen." The deal also included two out-of-print travel books by the author, 1970's The Mexican Night and 1984's Seven Days in Nicaragua Libre.
Ferlinghetti, born in 1919 in Yonkers, served in the US Navy during the second world war before studying at Columbia University and the Sorbonne. In 1953, he co-founded the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, launching the City Lights publishing house two years later. In 1956, he released Ginsberg's Howl, which opens with the famous line, "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving, hysterical, naked", and was arrested on obscenity charges, going on to be acquitted at trial.
Today, City Lights is seen as the heart of the Beat generation, and Ferlinghetti himself is the author of over 30 poetry collections, including the million-copy-selling A Coney Island of the Mind, released in 1958. In the poem Constantly Risking Absurdity, he writes that a poet's role at that time was: "Constantly risking absurdity / and death / whenever he performs / above the heads / of his audience / the poet like an acrobat / climbs on rime / to a high wire of his own making".
Ferlinghetti is also a painter, a translator, a playwright and a novelist and the recipient of a host of awards, including the Author's Guild Lifetime Achievement award. In 1994, San Francisco renamed a street in his honour.