Lawrence Ferlinghetti: Famed Beat poet and publisher dies aged 101

The literary star was known for co-founding a publishing house that worked with the likes of Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso, William S Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg

FILE PHOTO: Lawrence Ferlinghetti stands outside his bookstore in San Francisco, California, U.S. August 18, 1998. Stringer/File Photo
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Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the last great poet of the Beat generation who helped to establish the counterculture movement of 1950s America, has died aged 101.

His famed San Francisco bookstore and publishing house, City Lights, announced his death on Tuesday.

"We love you, Lawrence," City Lights posted on Twitter, saying that Ferlinghetti died on Monday.

Born in 1919, the New York native took part in the D-Day landings of the Second World War and saw the horror of atomic-bombed Nagasaki before moving to San Francisco and co-founding City Lights in 1953.

The bookstore became the outlet of Beat expression, a meeting point for its free-wheeling poets and, two years later, the first publisher of its leading authors including Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso, William S Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 03, 2007, a man reads a book at the City Lights Bookstore in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco, California.  Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the last great poet of the Beat Generation who helped to establish the counter-culture movement of 1950s America through his City Lights bookshop and publishers, has died, the store announced on February 23, 2021. He was 101. "We love you, Lawrence," City Lights said on Twitter, adding that Ferlinghetti died on February 22. / AFP / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Justin SULLIVAN
A man reads a book at the City Lights Bookstore, a haven for Beat generation poets. AFP

Ferlinghetti released his own volume, A Coney Island of the Mind, in 1958. The collection sold more than a million copies and established him as a major poet in his own right.

The year before, he was arrested on obscenity charges for publishing Ginsberg's Howl, considered an anthem of the disaffected Beat generation but criticised as explicit. Ferlinghetti was acquitted in a highly publicised trial at which the judge ruled Ginsberg's work was "not ... without redeeming social importance".

"The Howl trial really put us on the map in the literary world," Ferlinghetti said in an interview published on the City Lights website in 2018.

The bookshop endured as a literary landmark and even a tourist destination.

To celebrate Ferlinghetti's 100th birthday, its storefront displayed a line from his manifesto Poetry as Insurgent Art (2007): "Paper may burn but words will escape."

Asked by NPR, on the occasion of his 100th birthday, for the secret to his longevity, he quipped: "Have a good laugh and you'll live longer."

"Lawrence gets you laughing, and then hits you with the truth," film director Francis Ford Coppola said, in a blurb on the City Lights website.

The bookstore said Ferlinghetti "continued to write and publish new work up until he was 100 years old, and his work has earned him a place in the American canon".

"His curiosity was unbounded and his enthusiasm was infectious, and we will miss him greatly," the shop said in a statement on its website.