Lawrence Ferlinghetti is in that tradition of the public poet, no less than Vachel Lindsay or the absurdly expansive Whitman; less a man to complain about how the world doesn't fit comfortably around the skin he was born in, or muse long and serially on fragments of memory and half recalled cliches that never crystallize satisfyingly as a perception worth of the claim unique than he his something of a force of personality that refuses introspection and opts instead to verbalize, extol, berate, rant and rave in a lyric vein at once lyric , cranky, ecstatic, lustful and very much in love with the senses that bring him the full force of the beauty and ugliness that is life.Ferlinghetti was not a ruminator, an introvert, a sad soul contemplating many shades of despair particular personality types seem prone to decorate the walls of their interior being with. There is no melancholic wallpaper in the world the poet finds himself in, there is no metaphysics of gloom and regret. Not that Ferlinghetti's poems are bluster or weakly transpired musings on a beauty obscured urban density; his lines are confident, sure, idiom matching rhythm , not lapsing into a self parody of hip argot except when he deigned to do so. His images are fresh and electric, encompassing emotions and the consequence of things done to seek truth , beauty, a reason to celebrate the fragile miracle that is life.
There is little in the way of introspection, and that, I think, is the secret of his endearing popularity, and why his poems remain readable decades after the Beat craze has passed on into history . These are poems that like a good friend, a very good friend, who talks to you at the bar and pokes you in the shoulder, the man who would not let you get away with lying to yourself, the second opinion you constantly get , like it or not, that is a crude but freshly phrased thing we can call the truth , of a sort. It is , I think, a voice attached to an imagination that realizes that there are not enough years in any lifespan to not live fully , senses engaged with the raw stuff of existence. These poems are jazzy, a crafted idiom that rings with the swinging chain of associations that cut through reams of rhetoric and regulation and get to the pulsing heart of the matter; birth, sex, death, joy, sorrow, glee, calamity. It all hurts, it all brings sensations we don't want, but this is a man who rolls with the punches, knows when to duck, writes as though he's astounded that he's still drawing a breath and walking still without a crutch or cane, that he has a voice to speak words of yet new seductions to come or already underway. It's worth noting that there was a selected poems edition of his work published in the 80s called called Endless Life, which included a section of newer works, including a long piece that served as the collection's title. What interests me isn't so much the the quality of the poem but the concentrated concern it expresses, to stay engaged with the doings of citizens he shares the planet with, to keep doing what a poet should be doing at all times when they choose to poke their muse and write in those irregular line breaks that are most people's idea of what poetry is; even as he ages and friends die and institutions and personalized traditions come to an end, the world goes on with things to do, people to know, controversies to become a part of. The conversation doesn't end until the tongue can no longer flutter about the eyes cannot see and the mind cannot parse. Until then, endless life and more poetry.