Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Women on the move: These are the days, again

ArtsWatch Weekly: History moves into the forefront, a new series on Indigenous resilience, it's film fest time, a month of culture

ON SATURDAY THE DOOR BETWEEN THE PAST AND PRESENT CREAKS OPEN JUST A LITTLE BIT: After months of coronavirus shutdown and a couple of bouts of vandalism during protests in the South Park Blocks, the Oregon Historical Society reopens its downtown Portland center to visitors on a limited basis, joining such other Oregon museums and historical sites as Salem’s Hallie Ford Museum of Art, Bend’s High Desert Museum, the Grants Pass Museum of Art, and Portland’s Pittock Mansion, which has also just reopened on a limited basis. The historical society will be open noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays until further notice: Know the rules before you go

Abigail Scott Duniway voting for the first time, May 5, 1913, in Portland. The sister of Harvey Scott, the conservative editor of The Oregonian, she was a leading early suffragist and his political foil. Photo: Oregon Historical Society

MARCH IS WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH, and one of the big exhibits you’ll find at OHS is Nevertheless, They Persisted: Voting Rights and the 19th Amendment, which tells the story of the fight by women to win the right to vote. One of the movement’s prime figures in Oregon was Abigail Scott Duniway, a Portland suffragist and the sister of the stolidly conservative Harvey Scott, longtime editor of The Oregonian, whose statue in Mt. Tabor Park was torn down from its pedestal in October and recently, in a mysterious guerrilla art action, replaced by a handsome bust of York, the Black man who was a slave of William Clark and traveled with Clark and Meriwether Lewis on their expedition to the Pacific Ocean in 1805. Among other things, Scott was a steadfast opponent of women’s suffrage. Sometimes, what goes around comes around.


In honor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti: the last of the bohemians

Saying good-bye to the founder and the keeper of the Beat flame

If you would be a poet, experiment with all manner of poetics, erotic broken grammars, ecstatic religions, heathen outpourings speaking in tongues, bombast public speech, automatic scribblings, surrealist sensings, streams of consciousness, found sounds, rants and raves—to create your own limbic, your own underlying voice, your ur voice.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Poetry as Insurgent Art (2007)

Lawrence Ferlinghetti outside City Lights Bookstore on August 18, 1998

I held my breath as I walked up the steps. The room echoed with the sound of my wooden clogs meeting the wooden staircase to the Poetry Room of City Lights Books & Publishers. It was early February, less than 22 days before literary giant and City Lights founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti would pass away at the age of 101 in his San Francisco home. Gently noting each nailed-in printer page and slogan marked diligently into the wall, I drank in the manifestos and one-liner quotations, reverently making my way to the wall I was there for: a row of shelves labeled “Beat poetry”.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti was one of the fathers of the Beat generation. An inspired poet, social activist, and painter, Ferlinghetti championed many of the most well-known American poets to date. In 1953, he opened City Lights Books & Publishers, a literary hub and haven in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood. Having just returned from Paris during the paperback revolution, Ferlinghetti offered to sell books to help friend Peter Martin keep his literary magazine afloat. The magazine, at the time, was called City Lights, and led to the birth of one of the nation’s most impactful houses of literature.

Ferlinghetti reading out the window of City Lights

To book lovers and Beat aficionados alike, City Lights is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Within its historic Poetry Room reside many previously censored poetry books, some penned by the Beats themselves. Across the room rests the poet’s chair, a rickety rocking-chair relic settled beneath a sign that reads, “printer’s ink is the greater explosive.” City Lights is as welcoming a place as its history is daunting, full of the triumphs of a generation who fought for freedom of speech and for the pens of the poets who still seek to, as Ferlinghetti writes, “stand up and let them have it.”