Poetry Sunday: Away above a Harborful... by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, beat poet, playwright, publisher, and free speech activist died last week at the age of 101. As a publisher, perhaps his crowning achievement was to publish Allen Ginsberg's Howl and Other Poems in 1956. He also helped other beat writers such as Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs to reach readers. Ferlinghetti's most famous collection of poems was A Coney Island of the Mind which was published in 1958.

Here is one of his poems from an earlier collection, These Are My Rivers, published in 1955. I thought it was a good example of the jazzy rhythms and earthy imagery of so many of his poems. I hope you enjoy it.

Away above a Harborful . . .

by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Away above a harborful
                                              of caulkless houses   
among the charley noble chimneypots
                  of a rooftop rigged with clotheslines   
             a woman pastes up sails
                                          upon the wind
hanging out her morning sheets
                                             with wooden pins
                                  O lovely mammal
                                             her nearly naked breasts   
                        throw taut shadows
                                             when she stretches up   
to hang at last the last of her
                                              so white washed sins   
                  but it is wetly amorous
                                                   and winds itself about her   
                     clinging to her skin
                                                   So caught with arms   
            she tosses back her head
                                              in voiceless laughter   
    and in choiceless gesture then
                                                 shakes out gold hair

while in the reachless seascape spaces

                           between the blown white shrouds   

         stand out the bright steamers

                                                to kingdom come


  1. Many, many eons ago, I studied Ferlinghetti and Ginsburg, and I think I still have the textbook somewhere here. It was called "Twentieth Century Poetry and Poetics." I will see if I can find it! I am sure that many of us have delighted in the images he presents; we just never had the never or the skill to write about them!

    1. Ferlinghetti was such a powerful influence in so many arenas. He certainly lived a full and consequential life.

  2. I had not previously read much of Ferlinghetti's work. He seems well! worth exploring.

    Thanks for posting.

    1. He was quite a renaissance man and his poetry is an excellent representative of the beat genre.


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