Writing Across the Landscape: Travel Journals 1960-2010
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This long-awaited volume provides a panoramic portrait of art and life across the twentieth century, from Mexico to Morocco, Paris to Rome, and beyond.
Over the course of an adventured-filled life, now in its tenth decade, Lawrence Ferlinghetti has been many things: a poet, painter, pacifist, publisher, courageous defender of free speech, and owner of San Francisco’s legendary City Lights bookstore. Now the man whose A Coney Island of the Mind became a generational classic reveals yet another facet of his manifold talents, presenting here his travel journals, spanning over sixty years. Selected from a vast trove of mostly unpublished, handwritten notebooks, and edited by Giada Diano and Matthew Gleeson, Writing Across the Landscape becomes a transformative work of social, cultural, and literary history.
Beginning with Ferlinghetti's account of serving as a commanding officer on a Navy sub-chaser during D-Day, Writing Across the Landscape dramatically traverses the latter half of the twentieth century. For those only familiar with his poetry, these pages present a Lawrence Ferlinghetti never before encountered, an elegant prose stylist and tireless political activist who was warning against the pernicious sins of our ever-expansive corporate culture long before such thoughts ever seeped into mainstream consciousness.
Yet first and foremost we see an inquisitive wanderer whose firsthand accounts of people and places are filled with pungent descriptions that animate the landscapes and cultures he encounters. Evoking each journey with a mixture of travelogue and poetry as well as his own hand-drawn sketches, Ferlinghetti adopts the role of an American bard, providing panoramic views of the Cuban Revolution in Havana, 1960, and a trip through Haiti, where voodoo and Catholicism clash in cathedrals "filled with ulcerous children's feet running from Baron Hunger." Reminding us that poverty is not only to be found abroad, Ferlinghetti narrates a Steinbeck-like trip through California's Salton Sea, a sad yet exquisitely melodic odyssey from motel to motel, experiencing the life "between cocktails, between filling stations, between buses, trains, towns, restaurants, movies, highways leading over horizons to another Rest Stop…Sad hope of all their journeys to Nowhere and back in dark Eternity."
Particularly memorable is his journey across the Trans-Siberian Railway in 1957, which turns into a Kafkaesque nightmare in which he, lacking a proper visa, is removed from a Japan-bound freighter and forced back across the Russian steppe to Moscow, encountering a countryside more Tolstoy than Khrushchev, while nearly dying in the process. Readers are also treated to glimpses of Ezra Pound, "looking like an old Chinese sage," whom Ferlinghetti espies in Italy, as well as fellow Beat legends Allen Ginsberg and a dyspeptic William S. Burroughs, immured with his cats in a grotto-like apartment in London.
Embedded with facsimile manuscript pages and an array of poems, many never before published, Writing Across the Landscape revives an era when political activism coursed through the land and refashions Lawrence Ferlinghetti, not only as a seminal poet but as an historic and singular American voice.
Editors’ Introduction First Time Abroad Normandy Invasion (June 6, 1944) I. THE SIXTIES Latin America (January–February 1960) America! America! (March–November 1960) St. Thomas—Puerto Rico (November 1960) Picturesque Haiti (November–December 1960) Poet’s Notes on Cuba (December 1960) New Orleans (December 8, 1960) Big Sur Journal (September 1961) Salton Sea Notes (October 1961) Seattle—British Columbia (February 1962) France—North Africa (May–July 1963) London (1963) Tijuana—La
doesn’t condemn it, he merely lets us know that he knows it’s there. Cuidado! OK. Let it be. I’ve got other bones to deal with. . . . Or maybe the dog sees beauty instead of evil. He sees “beauty” out there without even knowing or naming it “beauty”— How should he know it’s named Beauty? #2 He sees “beauty,” sees her crossing the sand, out there, just this side of the waves. She is crossing the beach from right to left, blond hair and torso against the horizon. She is carrying a surfboard, she
two children will come hoping for a duty-free fuck by a Dark Spaniard and with the hope of putting their personal finances on a firmer basis with Fundador cognac at one dollar a fifth. Down the coast, on the other side of Málaga, is Torremolinos, another picturesque fishing port which has already been turned into a junior version of Miami Beach. This is probably the last year for Nerja and its old way of life, with smiling people who will take you across town on foot to show you where some store
Je fais des calculs en savon sur mon miroir, et mon verre s’est brisé avec un éclat de rire. Une vieille tricoteuse mémé-volante arrive avec mon café-au-lait, dit bonjour dans une voix sépulcrale en me jetant un coup d’oeil douloureux, et part. La vie-de-tous-les-jours ne change pas et les vieilles tricoteuses et les vieux ne changent pas; les jeunes changent; les vieux font les gestes obscènes, les jeunes font pipi comme les vieux, et alors deviennent vieux. Et tout recommence, tout tourne, et
is a Zen Buddhist— If you say you are, you probably aren’t. THROUGH THE LABYRINTH INTO THE SUN August 1982 Mexico City: sunny Sunday morning. A woman in a red sweatshirt and running shoes is clipping her poodle pup on a stone bench on the Paseo de la Reforma. She finishes and puts the poodle down on the ground where the pup’s legs start going like a mechanical toy, but she holds it, and then seems to crank its tail as if to wind it up. Then the little white dog scampers away under the little