Recently my grad program met in Philadelphia to critique their latest assignment. The prompt was A Coney Island of the Mind but did not have to be based on the 1958 Lawrence Ferlinghetti poetry book of the same name. One of the unexpected outcomes, thanks to one of the students, was the discovery that Ferlinghetti himself is a visual artist.
How did I not know that? Alongside his writings, his 1957 recording Poetry Readings in the Cellar, featuring both Ferlinghetti and Kenneth Rexroth reciting their poetry to jazz, remains one of my favorite albums.
A Coney Island of the Mind has been translated into nine languages, with sales of more than one million copies. Like fellow Beat poet Jack Kerouac, whose collection of paintings was published by author Ed Adler back in 2004, Felinghetti has been creating art since 1948. In 1953 he cofounded City Lights bookstore and publishing in San Francisco. Ferlinghetti’s paintings have been shown at numerous national and international museums. Ferlinghetti recently celebrated his 99th birthday.