Saturday, May 1, 2021

Conquering the Conquerors

                 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




And so the mortician arrived for the author of this poem, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, not in the middle of his beautiful life, but at the far, far end. This past February, he left us at the ripe old age of 101—in fact, just a month short of his 102ndbirthday. And was active as a painter and poet right up unto the very end. 


I only found this out by accident, looking up City Lights Publishing as a possible publisher for my new book. Back around 1955, Mr. Ferlinghetti not only founded City Lights bookstore which is still alive and well in San Francisco, but also founded the publishing company that dared to publish Allen Ginsberg’s poem Howl. He was arrested and charged with selling obscene material, but was later acquitted and the case became a landmark of First Amendment Rights. His own book of poems A Coney Island of the Mind is one of the best-selling poetry books, having sold over one million copies. 

In Poetry as an Insurgent Art, he wrote: 

If you would be a poet, create works capable of answering the challenge

of apocalyptic times…you can conquer the conquerors with words.

And so another American icon has passed from our midst and it is now our job to both remember him and continue his work. And I have to ask, “Why didn’t I know about this in February? Why did the media make sure I knew of Rush Limbaugh’s passing, but paid so little mind to Ferlinghetti? Why did one who used words to harm, to hurt, to spread hate and lies get more attention than another who used words to 'conquer the conquerers' and stand for beauty, truth, justice and love?” That’s the question contemporary America has to look in the face. Meanwhile, oh, reader, take a moment to read some of Mr. Ferlinghetti’s poems and share it with your friends. You’re in for a treat.

PS For more details of his fascinating and colorful life, see



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