Lawrence Ferlinghetti and the Romance of City Lights

Sep 19, 2015 730

by Mark Dery

Black and white and read all over, City Lights' Pocket Poets books were a depth charge in the American mind, back in the Eisenhower '50s. Part of the literary explosion known as the San Francisco Renaissance, they blew wide a hole the counterculture of the coming decade would be only too happy to step through.

Sixty years ago this August, the first of the series rolled off the letterpress. Rain-slicker yellow with a black border, the cover of publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti's own Pictures of the Gone World was designed to blare, and blare it did, grabbing the attention of browsers scanning bookstore shelves or, more likely, perusing the display racks in train stations, bus terminals, and drugstores where paperbacks were more commonly found.

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