February 15-28, 2005 Edition

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

To Receive Curtis

Benjamin Award

Washington, DC/02/01/05—Lawrence Ferlinghetti, founder of City Lights Publishers, a powerful force behind the Beat poetry movement, and one of the iconic figures of 20th Century American letters, has been named to receive the Curtis Benjamin Award for Creative Publishing, the Association of American Publishers announced today. The award will be presented to Mr. Ferlinghetti at the Association’s 2005 Annual Meeting in New York on March 3.

Mr. Ferlinghetti, who co-founded City Lights book store in San Francisco, launched City Lights Publishers in 1955 in order to “give voice to innovative and progressive ideas.” The press, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, is still dedicated to “publishing in a radical democratic tradition.” Since its inception, City Lights has published fiction, essays, poetry, and political analysis by U.S. and foreign writers and has brought back into print neglected or forgotten works. The publishing operation was launched with a “Pocket Poet Series,” the first volume of which was a collection of Mr. Ferlinghetti’s own poetry, Pictures of the Gone World, which has become a classic of Beat literature. Within a year, City Lights had published its fourth and most famous title, Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems, which led to Mr. Ferlinghetti’s arrest on obscenity charges. His trial and subsequent acquittal in a First Amendment precedent-setting case drew national attention to the book, to censorship, and to the San Francisco literary renaissance. The authors published by City Lights include Jack Kerouac, Paul Bowles, Denise Levertov, Norman Mailer, Pablo Neruda, Frank O’Hara, and Philip Lamantia.

Maintaining that the function of an independent press is to discover new voices and allow them to be heard, Mr. Ferlinghetti said recently: “From the beginning, the aim was to publish across the board, avoiding the provincial and the academic….What has proved most fascinating are the continuing crosscurrents and cross-fertilizations between poets widely separated by language or geography….”

The Curtis Benjamin Award, which is administered by the Association of American Publishers, was first given in 1975 to honor Curtis Benjamin, a much admired former President of McGraw-Hill. It is given to a living publisher in the United States who has demonstrated exceptional creativity and innovation in publishing.