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In 1919, Lawrence Ferlinghetti was born in Yonkers, New York. After spending his early childhood in France, he received his BA from the University of North Carolina, an MA from Columbia University, and a PhD from the Sorbonne.
During World War II he served in the US Naval Reserve and was sent to Nagasaki shortly after it was bombed. He married in 1951 and has one daughter and one son. In 1953, Ferlinghetti and Peter Martin began to publish City Lights magazine. They also opened the City Lights Books Shop in San Francisco to help support the magazine. In 1955, they launched City Light Publishing, a book-publishing venture. City Lights became known as the heart of the "Beat" movement, which included writers such as Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac.
Ferlinghetti is the author of more than thirty books of poetry, including Poetry as Insurgent Art (New Directions, 2007), Americus, Book I (2004), San Francisco Poems (2002), How to Paint Sunlight (2001), A Far Rockaway of the Heart (1997), These Are My Rivers: New & Selected Poems, 1955-1993 (1993), Over All the Obscene Boundaries: European Poems & Transitions (1984), Who Are We Now? (1976), The Secret Meaning of Things (1969), and A Coney Island of the Mind (1958). He has translated the work of a number of poets including Nicanor Parra, Jacques Prevert, and Pier Paolo Pasolini. Ferlinghetti is also the author more than eight plays and of the novels Love in the Days of Rage (1988) and Her (1966).
In 1994, San Francisco renamed a street in his honor. He was also named the first Poet Laureate of San Francisco in 1998. In 2000, he received the lifetime achievement award from the National Book Critics Circle.
Currently, Ferlinghetti writes a weekly column for the San Francisco Chronicle. He also continues to operate the City Lights bookstore, and he travels frequently to participate in literary conferences and poetry readings.
A headless man was running
down the street
He was carrying his head
in his hands
A woman ran after him
She had his heart
in her hands
The bombs kept falling
And they kept running
down the streets
Not the same two people
but thousands of others & brothers
from the bombs that kept falling
sowing pure hate
For every bomb that dropped
up sprang a thousand Bin Ladens
A thousand new terrorists
Like dragon's teeth sown
From which soldiers sprang up
Each waving a different flag
As the smart bombs sowing hate
Kept falling and falling and falling