Lawrence Ferlinghetti

24 March 1919 –

The World Is a Beautiful Place

The world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don’t mind happiness
not always being
so very much fun
if you don’t mind a touch of hell
now and then
just when everything is fine
because even in heaven
they don’t sing
all the time

The world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don’t mind some people dying
all the time
or maybe only starving
some of the time
which isn’t half bad
if it isn’t you

Oh the world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don’t much mind
a few dead minds
in the higher places
or a bomb or two
now and then
in your upturned faces
or such other improprieties
as our Name Brand society
is prey to
with its men of distinction
and its men of extinction
and its priests
and other patrolmen

and its various segregations
and congressional investigations
and other constipations
that our fool flesh
is heir to

Yes the world is the best place of all
for a lot of such things as
making the fun scene
and making the love scene
and making the sad scene
and singing low songs and having inspirations
and walking around
looking at everything
and smelling flowers
and goosing statues
and even thinking
and kissing people and
making babies and wearing pants
and waving hats and
and going swimming in rivers
on picnics
in the middle of the summer
and just generally
‘living it up’

but then right in the middle of it
comes the smiling



I hope Lawrence is keeping well in these troubled times.  On reading that it was his 101st ferlinghetti 2birthday I had to smother that instinctive response of “But I didn’t even know …” because of course I did – at a subliminal level.  It’s just with the passing of time, 101 kind of sneaks up on you when you’re half imagining him to be “only” 85 or 86 or something.  But then I remember that we thought he was “old” when we were reading him as teenagers over 50 years ago, in Penguin Modern Poets vol 5 in which he featured with Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso.   The American Beat Poets were like the original rock’n’rollers – a high quality and respected musicians of the 1950s on the other side of the Atlantic, but not quite as hip the newer version ten years down the line and living practically on your doorstep.

More than a poet, Ferlinghetti’s contribution to literature extends to being an influential bookseller and publisher.  I was aware that some of the books I was reading at that time were published by City Lights Press, but only later discovered this was Ferlinghetti’s imprint and named after his City Lights bookshop.  Like many independent bookshops it’s the opposite of a chain booksellers and is much more a community centre than a retain emporium.  I don’t know if he still owns it or whether it’s changed hands but it’s worth a visit if you’re on the Chinatown side of San Francisco.

Anyway, Happy Birthday Lawrence.