Monday, December 24, 2007


Lawrence Ferlinghetti (88)of City Lights Books reads his poem, "Pity the Nation" on today's Democracy Now!


AMY GOODMAN: I’m sitting here, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, with many of your books, not nearly—not nearly all of them, but, for example, Coney Island of the Mind, what is it? The biggest-selling poetry book of all time?


AMY GOODMAN: Talk about when you wrote that.

LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI: Well, it all came out at once. And another case that if I had died shortly thereafter—I wrote it when I was in my mid-thirties. That would probably be considered my best book, and it’s as I was saying before, the best poetry is written when one is fairly young. To me now, it seems that the mid-thirties as being—is very young. But—

AMY GOODMAN: Why is it, then? I mean, you’ve got the wisdom of a lifetime now.

LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI: Well, you haven’t have time to be acclimated or acclimated in the worst ways by modern industrial corporate monoculture, for instance, or American consumer society, which the way American consumer society is worked out, it seems to me the suburbs of America are the great American death.

You know, I’d like to read one poem that I just wrote. I really want to get this out.


LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI: Especially since Khalil Gibran has been in the news lately, including yesterday or the day before on your program. “Pity the Nation,” after Khalil Gibran.

Pity the nation whose people are sheep,
and whose shepherds mislead them.
Pity the nation whose leaders are liars, whose sages are silenced,
and whose bigots haunt the airwaves.
Pity the nation that raises not its voice,
except to praise conquerors and acclaim the bully as hero
and aims to rule the world with force and by torture.
Pity the nation that knows no other language but its own
and no other culture but its own.
Pity the nation whose breath is money
and sleeps the sleep of the too well fed.
Pity the nation—oh, pity the people who allow their rights to erode
and their freedoms to be washed away.
My country, tears of thee, sweet land of liberty.

Democracy Now! | Legendary Beat Generation Bookseller and Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti of City Lights Books on the 50th Anniversary of Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road”, Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” and Poetry As Insurgent Art

Watch the entire interview on Democracy Now! tonight at 10 p.m. on `Olelo channel 56 or click on the above for audio, video, or a complete transcript.


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