Monday, September 5, 2016

Ferlinghetti at 97: "Democracy is increasingly defined as successful capitalism."

The thing is, you could say, “I thought you were an anarchist.” The trouble is, we can’t afford anarchism today -– which sounds like a cop-out. But it’s not -– we can’t afford capitalism, either. We can’t afford unrestrained capitalism, just like we can’t afford unrestrained anarchism. In fact, unrestrained capitalism is the ideal of the Free Trade movement and the whole Republican policy in this country. Democracy is increasingly defined as successful capitalism . . . which is not necessarily so. Thinking the unthinkable, you could say that unrestrained capitalism is a form of anarchism! [laughs] Or, you could say that it’s anarchism carried to greedy extremes. (Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 2001, "Real Conversations No. 1")
At an age when most old lions are past roaring, Lawrence Ferlinghetti is still rattling the cages. He was interviewed in 2001 as part of a collection called  "Real Conversations, No. 1",  four in-depth interviews centering on art and politics with musicians Henry Rollins, Jello Biafra, and Billy Childish. Ferlinghetti seems to be the odd man out here, but republished ten years on in 2011 by V. Vale's RE/SEARCH publications and considering the tidal wave of events since then, it's astounding how these interviews -- with Ferlinghetti in particular -- still resonate with contemporary issues. 
Depending on your point of view you'll find Rollins, Biafra, and to a certain extent Billy Childish, insightful or exasperating in their politics, but its hard to miss the passion in their arguments. Ferlinghetti, by far, takes the longest view of events past and present, and suggests solutions (some new, some old), sounding the most conservative by comparison. 

Many will consider these four exchanges as nothing more than preaching to the already converted, but in this political season they take on the character of voices crying in the wilderness.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti published 60 years of his travel journals in 2015, and is preparing a sort-of autobiography, To the Lighthouse, prodded by his longtime literary friend Sterling Lord. Here's an excerpt from the 2015 Guardian article about Writing Across the Landscape: Travel Journals (1950-2013):
... Ferlinghetti, who at 94 is known as one of the last living connections with the Beat generation, sold the journals to Liveright Publishing, part of WW Norton, via Jack Kerouac's literary agent Sterling Lord, the New York Times revealed. Covering 1950 to 2013, and including travel journals and notebooks, the books tell of Ferlinghetti's travels to Cuba during the Castro revolution, to Africa, Haiti and Mexico, to Franco's Spain, Soviet Russia and Nicaragua under the Sandinistas, as well as the time he spent in Italy and France.
They will be brought together and published in September next year as Writing Across the Landscape: Travel Journals (1950-2013), said the New York Times, and will shed "as much light on Mr Ferlinghetti's political passions as on his relationships with the Beat writers", also covering his encounters with major writers such as Ezra Pound and Pablo Neruda.
"It shows a much more political Ferlinghetti, a voice for the poets of dissent," editor Robert Weil told the paper. "It is hardly just the Beats. It's a real engagement with much of the 20th century, although there are portraits of the Beats that we've never seen." The deal also included two out-of-print travel books by the author, 1970's The Mexican Night and 1984's Seven Days in Nicaragua Libre. ...

[Top: 2012 photo of Lawrence Ferlinghetti from

No comments: