I first read Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poetry in AP Literature my senior year of high school. I can’t remember which of his poems we read (was it “Sometime During Eternity“? “Constantly Risking Absurdity“?); since then I’ve read his poems so many times that most of the words seem familiar.
When I moved to San Francisco I started seeing a therapist whose office was in North Beach. Every week after our session I would walk from her office to City Lights Bookstore and spend as long as I could among its shelves before walking the next few blocks to my office downtown. That was always a jarring transition: from the quiet of therapy and a bookstore to the noisy, crowded office.
For Christmas two years ago my mom got me a copy of Ferlinghetti’s Greatest Poems. I didn’t remember telling her about any of his poems that I loved, or all the hours I’d spent kneeling by the shelves in the cramped basement of City Lights.
I took the book with me down to Ocean Beach one day and read my favorite of his poems, “The world is a beautiful place,” by the water. It begins:
And then, later:
I read of Ferlinghetti’s death in between meetings yesterday afternoon, during a five minute break in which I was scrolling through Twitter.
In the evening, after work, I took the book of his poems and went out for a walk. I looked at everything and smelled the flowers.