Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti has died at age 101

Lawrence Ferlinghetti in front of his City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco. (City Lights photo)

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, whose poetry defied social barriers and norms, and who saw his poetry as insurgent art, died on February 22. He inspired generations of writers and artists from his City Lights bookstore in San Francisco to make art that challenged the status quo. Ferlinghetti protested the U.S. war on Vietnam and urged other poets and artists to engage in politics. On his death, a friend said of Lawrence that he had been full of humor and would likely say, “Well, what would you expect from a 101-year-old?”

Here he is reading his poem, “The World is a Beautiful Place”:


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 so 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 of having
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

– Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 1919-2021