Happy birthday, Lawrence Ferlinghetti!

He’s outlasted everybody! Today, Lawrence Ferlinghetti turns 98. He may be the single most important figure in First Amendment issues related to publishing in the country. His only competition would be Barney Rosset of Grove Press, who won the right to publish Lady Chatterley’s Lover. But the Howl trial was first, and Ferlinghetti took the risk to publish this shocking poem by an unknown poet, just for the privilege of fighting government censors. He is also a major poet in his own right. As my friend Danny Rendleman says, A Coney Island of the Mind was the first book of poems every young person of his generation bought if he or she thought poetry might be a possible, if largely unpaid, career. And LF’s “Loud Prayer” is one of the highlights of Martin Scorcese’s film about The Band’s final concert, The Last Waltz. Here’s a link to an NPR profile from 2015, when Ferlinghetti was just a kid of 96: