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Poetry as Prophecy

The poetry of Lawrence Ferlinghetti: "Are There Not Still Fireflies."

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  • ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH:

    In good times and bad, San Franciscans are accustomed to hearing from the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti. For a half century, he has walked the streets of his beloved North Beach neighborhood and produced volumes of verse about matters mundane and monumental. He was the city's first official poet laureate and his bookstore, City Lights, was recently declared a San Francisco landmark. Though he's known now as a peace activist, he joined the Navy in World War II and became commander of a sub-chaser. He witnessed the devastation of Nagasaki just after the atomic bomb was dropped. Last week at a North Beach theater, Ferlinghetti read his poetry to a sold-out audience. He said art and poetry will be classified from now on as B.S. and A.S.– Before and after September 11. He also spoke of poetry as prophecy.

  • LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI:

    Here's another attempt at prophesy before September 11. It's kind of based on the Greek poet, Cavafy.

    "Are there not still firefliesAre there not still four-leaf cloversIs not our land still beautifulour fields not full of armed enemiesour cities never bombedby foreign invadersnever occupiedby iron armiesspeaking iron tonguesAre not our warriors still valiantready to defend usAre not our senatorsstill wearing fine togasAre we not still a great peoplein the greatest country in all the worldIs this not still a free countryAre not our fields still oursour gardens still full of flowersour ships with full cargoesWhy then do some still fearthe barbarians comingcoming comingin their huddled masses(What is that sound that fills the eardrumming drumming?)Is not Rome still RomeIs not Los Angeles still Los AngelesAre these not the last days of the Roman EmpireIs not beauty still beautyAnd truth still truthAre there not still poetsAre there not still loversAre there not still motherssisters and brothersIs there not still a full moononce a monthAre there not still firefliesAre there not still stars at nightCan we not still see themin bowl of nightsignalling to usour manifest destiny?"

    (Applause)

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