Archive for February 23rd, 2021

Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s editor remembers: “it was a thrill to get to work on his stuff.”

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021
Share
For his 100th: a poet reading outside Caffe Trieste (Photos: Regan McMahon)

Lawrence Ferlinghetti is dead at 101. As someone said on Facebook, we thought he would go on and on – like Keith Richards. Many voices have been heard today memorializing the City Lights legend, but one aspect of the poet’s career has been forgotten: he once wrote a regular column for the San Francisco Chronicle. It was during the time David Kipen was the valiant book editor of the paper’s book section … back in the days when it had a standalone book section, and back in the days when I was writing for the section regularly, too. David signed up the poet and activist to write some time after Ferlinghetti was named San Francisco Poet Laureate in 1998.

Former Deputy Editor Regan McMahon (now books editor at Common Sense Media) remembers: “I was privileged to get to edit the column Ferlinghetti wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle’s Books section for a while. Loved when he’d reminisce about his early days in San Francisco in the early ‘50s. A man of integrity, artistic vision, and wit. City Lights has always been a touchstone. Think how many travelers saw Ferlinghetti’s bookstore as a destination and walked away with a book of poetry. That alone should earn him sainthood.”

“I had to fret over it coming in late, as I recall. I basically copyedited it, and of course wanted to let his voice shine through, even if I had to make a few schoolmarmish fixes. He took ’em in stride. I forget how long he wrote for us or how or why it ended. I think he got tired of meeting deadlines. But the pieces were full of charm, wit, and wisdom. And it was a thrill to get to work on his stuff.”

She also remembers “the great day we had in North Beach for his 100th birthday celebration in 2019.” And she took some photos.

“Slid by Caffe Trieste, where a poet was reading outside on the sidewalk, natch, then walked down to Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store, a family tradition.”

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Ferlinghetti1.jpg
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Ferlinghetti2.jpg
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Ferlinghetti3.jpg