Happy Birthday

DZEFg20VMAEpQbmI grew up in the 1950s, in San Diego, went to a Los Angeles university in the 1960s, and am proud to admit that my most memorable professor was Jack Hirshman. Add Hirshman to an early (and frequent) exposure to James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and S. I. Hayakawa, and it isn’t too much of a stretch to learn that my first young-adult visit to a famous landmark in San Francisco was not Carol Doda, but rather the City Lights Bookstore.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti was a personal local favorite. Back when I could only afford to nurse a single cup of coffee until the wee hours (ten cents a cup), I actually owned at least two volumes of Ferlinghetti’s poetry. Jack Hirshman was honored as Poet Laureaate of San Francisco and before that Lawrence Ferlighetti held the honor.

Does your town or city have a Port Laureate?

He’s 99 years old now and I am in my declining 70s. I wrote a lot of unpublished poetry in the ’60s but look at what Ferlinghetti published.

  • Pictures of the Gone World (City Lights, 1955) Poetry (enlarged, 1995)
  • A Coney Island of the Mind (New Directions, 1958) Poetry
  • Tentative Description of a Dinner Given to Promote the Impeachment of President Eisenhower (Golden Mountain Press, 1958) Broadside poem
  • Her (New Directions, 1960) Prose
  • One Thousand Fearful Words for Fidel Castro (City Lights, 1961) Broadside poem
  • Starting from San Francisco (New Directions, 1961) Poetry (HC edition includes LP of author reading selections)
  • Journal for the Protection of All Beings (City Lights, 1961) Journal
  • Unfair Arguments with Existence (New Directions, 1963) Short Plays
  • Where is VietNam? (Golden Mountain Press, 1963) Broadside poem
  • Routines (New Directions, 1964) 12 Short Plays
  • Two Scavengers in a Truck, Two Beautiful People in a Mercedes (1968)
  • On the Barracks: Journal for the Protection of All Beings 2 (City Lights, 1968) Journal
  • Tyrannus Nix? (New Directions, 1969) Poetry
  • The Secret Meaning of Things (New Directions, 1970) Poetry
  • The Mexican Night (New Directions, 1970) Travel journal
  • Back Roads to Far Towns After Basho (City Lights, 1970) Poetry
  • Love Is No Stone on the Moon (ARIF, 1971) Poetry
  • Open Eye, Open Heart (New Directions, 1973) Poetry
  • Who Are We Now? (New Directions, 1976) Poetry
  • Northwest Ecolog (City Lights, 1978) Poetry
  • Landscapes of Living and Dying (1980)
  • Over All the Obscene Boundaries (1986)
  • Love in the Days of Rage (E. P. Dutton, 1988; City Lights, 2001) Novel
  • A Buddha in the Woodpile (Atelier Puccini, 1993)
  • These Are My Rivers: New & Selected Poems, 1955–1993 (New Directions, 1993)
  • City Lights Pocket Poets Anthology (City Lights, 1995)
  • A Far Rockaway Of The Heart (New Directions, 1998)
  • How to Paint Sunlight: Lyrics Poems & Others, 1997–2000 (New Directions, 2001)
  • San Francisco Poems (City Lights Foundation, 2001) Poetry
  • Life Studies, Life Stories (City Lights, 2003)
  • Americus: Part I (New Directions, 2004)
  • A Coney Island of the Mind (Arion Press, 2005), with portraiture by R.B. Kitaj
  • Poetry as Insurgent Art (New Directions, 2007) Poetry
  • A Coney Island of the Mind: Special 50th Anniversary Edition with a CD of the author reading his work (New Directions, 2008)
  • 50 Poems by Lawrence Ferlinghetti 50 Images by Armando Milani (Rudiano, 2010) Poetry and Graphics
  • Time of Useful Consciousness, (Americus, Book II) (New Directions, 2012)
  • City Lights Pocket Poets Anthology: 60th Anniversary Edition (City Lights, 2015)
  • I Greet You At The Beginning Of A Great Career: The Selected Correspondence of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg 1955–1997. (City Lights, 2015)
  • Pictures of the Gone World: 60th Anniversary Edition (City Lights, 2015)

4 thoughts on “Happy Birthday

  1. I am writing a bio of poet Jack Hirschman and I was wondering whether you might be available to share some of your memories of the UCLA years. Best from the Eternal City.


    1. Not much to tell other than what I have already posted. Interesting: I cannot recall anything Hirschman had to say in his class except, possibly, his comments on preparing to study Finnegns Wake (which actually was not germane to the class subject). In general, my memories involve Hirschman’s presence. He taught the one course from the stage of the auditorium in the Humanities building and would often sit just off stage on a partially hidden bench. I don’t remember him using a microphone but it wouldn’t have been unusual, especially at the podium. Also, I don’t remember what unfiltered cigarettes he smoked but I do remember he was always smoking and that he let his cigarettes burn to the last millimeter, holding the remaining puffs by his fingernails cupped in the bowl of his hand.

      UCLA had a handful of one-credit courses in the Humanities and Hirschman taught the course which I now recognize as focusing on the theme, the search for the father. We had three books to read that quarter (8 weeks): Ulysses, The Brothers Karamazov, and The Odyssey if I recall. For the final exam the TAs told us to bring a current newspaper to the two-hour affair. At exam time the TAs announced that Hirschman wanted us to start reading the newspapers and that he would be joining us shortly. At least an hour went by with the constant background of flipping pages and anticipation. Finally Hirschman appeared on stage expressing great delight at what he saw in the auditorium. Then he went to the podium, lit a fresh Lucky, philosophized about life and the Vietnam war, pondered the meaning of Yin and Yang, and finally announced that he was giving all males the grade of “A” to keep them out of the war, and “B” to all females who, although equals, must walk behind the man according to Chinese philosophy.

      Before ducking, he quickly added that anyone not happy with their grade should see him after the class. The stage was immediately flooded with students, almost all female. I grabbed my book-bag and walked out the door, tossing my half-read newspaper in the trashcan.

      Like all memories over fifty years old, gaps, additions, and modifications sneak in and convince us of what happened, even if it didn’t. But the above is pretty close to what I believe I actually experienced. True, I’m just guessing that he smoked Luckies and I actually don’t remember if the third book was The Odyssey but it’s logical.


    2. There are a couple of posts involving Jack Hirschman on this site, If you haven’t seen them, just do a Search.


  2. I’ve always heard of that bookstore, Mike, but you’re the first person I knew who was fortunate enough to visit it. Good on you!


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