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Standing On The Right Side Of History: Lawrence Ferlingetti And City Lights Books



A prominent voice of the wide-open poetry movement that began in the 1950s, Lawrence Ferlinghetti (image, above, 1959) has written poetry, translations, fiction, theater, art criticism, film narration, and essays. An accomplished painter, his paintings have been shown at galleries around the world.

Founded in San Francisco in 1953 by Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin (who left two years later), City Lights, named after the 1931 Charlie Chaplain film, is one of the truly great independent bookstores in the United States. Originally a little one-room, pie-shaped bookstore. Martin and Ferlinghetti began by selling new quality paperbacks and early alternative newspapers and magazines. Out front on the sidewalk there were used books in Parisian-style book-racks with lids that could be closed at night (like quayside kiosks in Paris). They had started the store with $500 each, and never dreamed they would take in as much as $50 a day selling paperbacks

Although it has been more than fifty years since tour buses with passengers eager to sight “beatniks” began pulling up in front of City Lights, the Beats’ legacy of anti-authoritarian politics and insurgent thinking continues to be a strong influence in the store, most evident in the selection of titles.

The nation’s first all-paperback bookstore, City Lights Booksellers has expanded several times. The store features an extensive and in-depth selection of poetry, fiction, translations, politics, history, philosophy, music and spirituality along with other titles and a staff whose special book interests in many fields contribute to the hand-picked quality on the shelves. The bookstore has served for half a century as a meeting place for writers, artists, and intellectuals.


Two years after its founding, Ferlinghetti started City Lights Publishers. With nearly 200 books in print, it is renown for cutting-edge fiction, poetry, memoirs, literary translations and books on vital social and political issues.

City Lights Publishers began with the Pocket Poets Series, through which Ferlinghetti aimed to create an “international, dissident ferment.” His publication of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl And Other Poems in 1956 led to his arrest on obscenity charges; the trial that followed drew national attention to the San Francisco Renaissance and Beat movement writers. (He was overwhelmingly supported by prestigious literary and academic figures, and was acquitted.) This landmark First Amendment case established a legal precedent for the publication of controversial work with redeeming social importance.

San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown appointed him Poet laureate in 1998. ”In Plato’s republic, poets were considered subversive, a danger to the republic,” Ferlinghetti said, standing beside the Mayor. ”I kind of relish that role. So I see my present role as a gadfly, to use as a soapbox to promote my various ideas and obsessions.” In 2003 he was awarded the Robert Frost Memorial Medal, the Author’s Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, and he was elected to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters.

skitched-20130406-153707Among the titles City Lights has issued recently are I Must Resist and Robert Duncan in San Francisco. Published on the centennial of his birth, and in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington, I Must Resist was edited by Michael G Long.

Here is Rustin in his own words in a collection of over 150 of his letters; his correspondents include the major progressives of his day — for example, Eleanor Holmes Norton, A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, Ella Baker, and of course, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Bayard Rustin, called the “lost prophet” of the civil rights movement, is best remembered as the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington. He brought Gandhi’s protest techniques to the American civil rights movement and played a deeply influential role in the life of Martin Luther King.  He was silenced, threatened, arrested, beaten, imprisoned and fired from important leadership positions, largely because he was an openly gay man in a fiercely homophobic era.

READ: Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Gay Strategist, Deserves Better

skitched-20130406-153837A newly expanded edition of the classic, Robert Duncan in San Francisco by Michael Rumaker is both a portrait of the premier poet of the SF Renaissance and a fascinating account of gay life in late 1950s America:

Following his graduation from Black Mountain College, Rumaker made his way to the post-Howl, pre-Stonewall gay literary milieu of San Francisco. It was an era of police persecution of a largely clandestine gay community struggling to survive in the otherwise “open city” of San Francisco.

skitched-20130406-154005And just released, The End of San Francisco, according to City Lights’ website, “breaks apart the conventions of memoir to reveal the passions and perils of a life that refuses to conform to the rules of straight or gay normalcy. A budding queer activist escapes to San Francisco, in search of a world more politically charged, sexually saturated, and ethically consistent—this is the person who evolves into the author, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, infamous radical queer troublemaker, organizer and agitator, community builder, and anti-assimilationist commentator.  Part memoir, part social history, and part elegy, The End of San Francisco explores and explodes the dream of a radical queer community and the mythical city that was supposed to nurture it.”

READ: ‘The End of San Francisco’ Author Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore In Seattle Tonight

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore’s reads from her book in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkeley, Olympia and Seattle in April, May and June.

City Lights continues to be a mecca for intellectuals in San Francisco. The ongoing series of readings and events, usually at least one or two each week, are almost always free.

In 2001, City Lights was made an official historic landmark – a singular honor for a business.

With this bookstore-publisher combination, “it is as if,” says Ferlinghetti, “the public were being invited, in person and in books, to participate in that ‘great conversation’ between authors of all ages, ancient and modern.” City Lights has become world-famous, but it has retained an intimate, casual charm. It’s a completely unique San Francisco experience, and a must for anyone who appreciates good books.

City Lights Bookstore celebrates its 60th anniversary on Sunday, June 23rd,  2013 with a birthday party open house at the bookstore — mark your calendars now, and start planning your trip to San Francisco!

In addition to the Anniversary Open House in June,  in July, they’ll partner with the Contemporary Jewish Museum — host to a traveling exhibit of Allen Ginsberg’s photographs — for an event about the continued struggle against forces of conservatism and censorship, focusing on Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s successful defense of Allen Ginsberg’s HOWL And Other Poems.

Also in July, San Francisco Poet Laureate Alejandro Murguia will host a gathering of writers in Jack Kerouac Alley, next to the bookstore.  In August, some of the fine contemporary poets in the new City Lights Spotlight Series come together for a group reading to celebrate the series, while in September the current and past poet laureates of San Francisco read and celebrate City Lights’ Poet Laureate Series at the new SF Jazz Center.

November will be the time to focus on Surrealism with an evening that will include surrealist games and activities. In addition, they are sponsoring a series of Sunday afternoon happenings all summer long, casual literary readings and musical entertainment outdoors in Jack Kerouac Alley, next to the bookstore.

If you can’t make it in person, you can join in the celebration online. Throughout the year they’’ll be featuring historical photos, stories, reminiscences and more on  on the City Lights Blog. Follow them on Facebook, Pinterest, and check out their Twitter feed, for up-to-the-minute news on events and postings.



Lawrence Ferlinghetti in Front of City Lights, 2013

Lawrence Ferlinghetti and City Lights standing firmly on the Right Side of History since 1953.

All images courtesy of City Lights

City Lights Bookstore is located at 261 Columbus Avenue at Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133
phone: (415) 362-8193  Open daily 10 am to midnight.


Stuart Wilber believes that living life openly as a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Allied person is the most powerful kind of activism. Shortly after meeting his husband in Chicago in 1977, he opened a gallery named In a Plain Brown Wrapper, where he exhibited cutting edge work by leading artists; art that dealt with sexuality and gender identification.  (Photo by Mathew Ryan Williams)

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‘Radical Left Marxists’: Trump Launches Attack Hours After Judge Imposes Gag Order



Just hours after New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron imposed a limited gag order and directed Donald Trump to remove his social media post targeting and attacking, by name, the judge’s law clerk, the ex-president Tuesday evening issued an attack targeting the legal system, and apparently, by extension, Attorney General Letitia James.

Judge Engoron’s Tuesday order barred Trump from “posting, emailing or speaking publicly about any of my staff,” as Politico reported. The judge’s gag order did not extend to any officer of the court, witnesses, or anyone else involved in Attorney General James’ $250 million civil fraud case against Trump.

“Consider this statement a gag order forbidding all parties from posting, emailing or speaking publicly about any of my staff,” Engoron said Tuesday afternoon. “Failure to abide by this order will result in serious sanctions.”

Judge Engoron had announced in court: “This morning one of the defendants posted to his social media account a disparaging, untrue and personally identifying post about a member of my staff.”

“Personal attacks on members of my court staff are unacceptable, inappropriate and I will not tolerate them in any circumstances,” Engoron added.

Politico described Trump’s social media post as “a message alleging [the law clerk] ‘is running this case against me.’ The message was pulled from an account on X with fewer than 200 followers. Trump then linked to an Instagram account for Greenfield’s campaign for a judgeship in Manhattan civil court.”

READ MORE: ‘Part of the Authoritarian Playbook’: Trump’s Courthouse Rant Slammed by Fascism Scholars

“’How disgraceful! This case should be dismissed immediately!!’ Trump added. He also posted a photo of her alongside Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and referred to her as ‘Schumer’s girlfriend.'”

And while the judge ordered the social media post taken down, there’s nothing that can be done about the email blast Trump sent to “millions” of his supporters that included the post, as The New York Times reported.

Tuesday evening, despite having already been given one gag order, Trump appeared to tear into the legal system and Attorney General Letitia James in a series of false claims.

After claiming James’ civil lawsuit against him was unconstitutional and election interference, Trump wrote the decision to apply that statute to him “was done by Radical Left Marxists design, and is not the America we know.”

“It is so unfair that I am being tried under Section 63(12), which is unconstitutionally being used to punish me because I am substantially leading Crooked Joe Biden in the polls,” Trump wrote on Truth Social. “It is a Consumer Protection Statute, and not meant, at all, for Election Interference purposes, which is what this is all about! Under this Section of the law, I am not even entitled to a JURY (there is no checking of a box alternative!).This was done by Radical Left Marxists design, and is not the America we know. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

As The New Yorker reported last week, the law Trump is referring to was “passed at the behest of one of” James’ “Republican predecessors, Jacob Javits.”

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‘Terrorist Attacks’: Murphy and Cornyn Slam House GOPers Over McCarthy Ouster



After U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and seven of fellow far-right House Republicans voted to oust their own Speaker of the House for supporting a bipartisan vote to keep the federal government of the United States from a shutdown, a powerful Senate Republican and Democrat are both strongly denouncing the work of the few GOP extremists who toppled Kevin McCarthy.

U.S. Senator John Cornyn, a hard-core Republican of Texas and a former member of the Senate Republican leadership team, blasted the eight House Republicans for their “terrorist attack,” and warned it will happen again.

“We saw a similar thing happen to Boehner, Ryan, and now McCarthy. I’m sure the next speaker is going to be subjected to the same terrorist attacks,” Senator Cornyn said, according to HuffPost’s Igor Bobic.

Responding to a Texas radio talk show host from his official social media account, Sen. Cornyn added, “A handful [of] House members just want to blow up the institution and themselves in the process. Sad.”

READ MORE: McCarthy Ousted as Speaker in Historic First as Republicans Vow Vengeance Against Gaetz: ‘Kiss My A–’

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) called the ouster “a deeply embarrassing moment for America. A consequence of a Republican Party that has become so radicalized that it can no longer function as an organized political party.”

“Nobody should be rooting for this circus,” added Sen. Murphy in video recorded as he watched the House voting to remove McCarthy as Speaker. He warned that the ouster of McCarthy will now take the House away from the critical work of keeping the government open after November 17, “instead of working on a budget.” And he warned that no new funds to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war have been authorized.

“These are life and death stakes,” Murphy said, lamenting this “makes us look so weak and foolish around the world.”

Watch Sen. Murphy’s remarks above or at this link.

READ MORE: ‘Part of the Authoritarian Playbook’: Trump’s Courthouse Rant Slammed by Fascism Scholars

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McCarthy Ousted as Speaker in Historic First as Republicans Vow Vengeance Against Gaetz: ‘Kiss My A–’



U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has been ousted as the elected Speaker of the House of Representatives after a weeks-long campaign by his fellow Republican, Congressman Matt Gaetz. The Republican Florida lawmaker vowed over the weekend to put a “motion to vacate” on the House floor, which he did Monday night. Tuesday afternoon McCarthy lost the support of the majority in a full House vote.

No Speaker of the House has ever been ousted by a motion to vacation, according to the Associated Press, until McCarthy.

“The Office of the Speaker of the House of the United States House of Representatives is hereby declared vacant,” the presiding Republican lawmakers declared. The final vote was 216-210.

No Democrats voted to support McCarthy as Speaker.

Overall House Republicans are furious with Gaetz, with some vowing to expel him should the House Ethics Committee submit a negative report on their investigation into his alleged, possible sexual misconduct, unlawful drug use, and public corruption.

In addition to Gaetz, other House Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy include Andy Biggs, Ken Buck, Tim Burchett, Eli Crane, Bob Good, Nancy Mace, and Matt Rosendale.

READ MORE: Trump Has Now ‘Crossed the Line Into Criminal Threats’: Top Legal Scholar

“After talking to a few House Republican lawmakers and aides,” during the vote to oust McCarthy as Speaker, Punchbowl News’ Jake Sherman reported he “would not be surprised to see someone move to have Gaetz expelled from the House Republican Conference.”

U.S. Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) in a profane rant slammed Gaetz, in a recorded video, saying, “You want to come at me and call me a RINO you can kiss my ass! You go around talking your big game and thumping your chest on Twitter. Come in my office and have a debate mother —!”

U.S. Rep. Sam Graves (R-LA) help up his phone while delivering remarks against Gaetz, chastising him for fundraising off his efforts to oust McCarthy.

“Using official actions to raise money. It’s disgusting!” he told his colleagues.

What happens next? According to The New York Times on Tuesday, “If McCarthy is removed, the House would be paralyzed.”

“A vacancy in the speaker’s chair would essentially paralyze the House until a successor is chosen, according to multiple procedural experts. An interim speaker would be chosen from a list prepared by Mr. McCarthy and his staff at the beginning of the year, but staff intimately familiar with House rules say the role of that person would be to oversee a speaker election and little more.”

As for McCarthy, he has said if removed as Speaker he would not resign from Congress. On Tuesday he suggested he would definitely run again for Speaker.

READ MORE: ‘Fool or a Liar’: GOP Knives Out for ‘A–hole’ Matt Gaetz as Vote to Oust McCarthy Appears Likely to Succeed

Watch the videos above or at this link.



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