Wednesday, July 16, 2014

City Lights Bookstore - Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I just got back from a quick trip to San Francisco to help my daughter check out housing for her internship, which starts in mid-August.  I haven't been to SF in quite a number of years, and loved exploring again...and walking, walking, walking.

My brother came down from Sonoma and treated us to dinner at North Beach Restaurant, which was absolutely wonderful.  After dinner we walked a block or two to his favorite bookstore, City Lights.

Here's the blurb from their website:
City Lights is a landmark independent bookstore and publisher that specializes in world literature, the arts, and progressive politics.  Founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin, City Lights is one of the truly great independent bookstores in the United States, a place where booklovers from across the country and around the world come to browse, read, and just soak in the ambiance of alternative culture's only "Literary Landmark."

It was a great visit--my brother bought a map of Tudor London (1580), but my favorite part was the poetry room upstairs where Jack Kerouac, Alan Ginsberg, et al gave readings.  It was fun to go on an impromptu literary pilgrimage.

In the poetry room, there were a number of framed poems by poet and bookstore co-founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

In particular, I liked this one--now I want to read all of his poems.  I think I'll start with the collection, A Coney Island of the Mind.

Flying book lights near City Lights bookstore, San Francisco

Are There Not Still Fireflies, Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Are there not still fireflies
Are there not still four-leaf clovers
Is not our land still beautiful
Our fields not full of armed enemies
Our cities never bombed to oblivion
Never occupied by iron armies
speaking iron tongues
Are not our warriors still valiant
ready to defend us
Are not our senators still wearing fine togas
Are we not still a great people
Is this not still a free country
Are not our fields still ours
our gardens still full of flowers
our ships with full cargoes

When then do some still fear
the barbarians are coming
coming coming
in their huddled masses
(What is that sound that fills the ear
drumming drumming?)

Is not Rome still Rome
Is not Los Angeles still Los Angeles
Are these really the last days of the Roman Empire

Is not beauty still beauty
And truth still truth
Are there not still poets
Are there not still lovers
Are there not still mothers
sisters and brothers
Is there not still a full moon
once a month

Are there not still fireflies
Are there not still stars at night
Can we not still see them
in a bowl of night
signaling to us
our so-called manifest destinies?


  1. I love visiting literary and bookish destinations while traveling. I would really like visit City Lights some day.

    Pondering that poem...