City Lights Books

City Lights is an independent bookstorepublisher combination in San Francisco, California, that specializes in world literature, the arts, and progressive politics. It also houses the nonprofit City Lights Foundation, which publishes selected titles related to San Francisco culture. It was founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin (who left two years later). Both the store and the publishers became widely known following the obscenity trial of Ferlinghetti for publishing Allen Ginsberg‘s influential collection Howl and Other Poems (City Lights, 1956). Nancy Peters started working there in 1971 and retired as executive director in 2007. In 2001, City Lights was made an official historic landmark. City Lights is located at 261 Columbus Avenue. While formally located in Chinatown, it self-identifies as part of immediately adjacent North Beach. City Lights was the inspiration of Peter D. Martin, who relocated from New York City to San Francisco in the 1940s to teach sociology. He first used City Lights—in homage to the Chaplin film—in 1952 as the title of a magazine, publishing early work by such key Bay Area writers as Philip Lamantia, Pauline Kael, Jack Spicer, Robert Duncan, and Ferlinghetti himself, as ‘Lawrence Ferling’.  … In 1955, Ferlinghetti launched City Lights Publishers with his own Pictures of the Gone World, the first number in the Pocket Poets Series. This was followed in quick succession by Thirty Spanish Poems of Love and Exile translated by Kenneth Rexroth and Poems of Humor & Protest by Kenneth Patchen, but it was the impact of the fourth volume, Howl and Other Poems (1956) by Allen Ginsberg that brought national attention to the author and publisher. City Lights Journal published poems of the Indian Hungry generation writers when the group faced police case in Kolkata. The group got worldwide publicity thereafter. Apart from Ginsberg’s seven collections, a number of the early Pocket Poets volumes brought out by Ferlinghetti have attained the status of classics, including True Minds by Marie Ponsot (1957), Here and Now by Denise Levertov (1958), Gasoline (1958) by Gregory Corso, Selected Poems by Robert Duncan (1959), Lunch Poems (1964) by Frank O’Hara, Selected Poems (1967) by Philip Lamantia, Poems to Fernando (1968) by Janine Pommy Vega, Golden Sardine (1969) by Bob Kaufman, and Revolutionary Letters (1971) by Diane di Prima. …”
from a secret location: City Lights Journal
Publishers as Enemies of the State: City Lights Books (Video)
City Lights
YouTube: CityLightsBooks

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This entry was posted in Allen Ginsberg, Books, Poetry and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to City Lights Books

  1. My brother has been to City Lights and bought me a couple books. Close as I’ve been. Though I did see Ferlinghetti at a reading with Kenneth Patchen in northern Ohio.


  2. The City Lights is my local bookshop, wonderful place, great beat collection upstairs.


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