• Date Of Birth: March 24, 1919
  • Date Of Death: February 22, 2021
  • Spouse: Selden Kirby-Smith ​ ​(m. 1951⁠–⁠1976)​
  • Occupation: Poet, activist, essayist, painter and publisher
  • City: San Francisco
  • State: California

Lawrence Monsanto Ferlinghetti (March 24, 1919 – February 22, 2021) was an American poet, painter, social activist, and co-founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers. The author of poetry, translations, fiction, theatre, art criticism, and film narration, Ferlinghetti was best known for his second collection of poems, A Coney Island of the Mind (1958), which has been translated into nine languages and sold over a million copies. When Ferlinghetti turned 100 in March 2019, the city of San Francisco turned his birthday, March 24, into “Lawrence Ferlinghetti Day”.

Ferlinghetti was born on March 24, 1919, in Yonkers, New York. Shortly before his birth, his father, Carlo, a native of Brescia, died of a heart attack; his mother, Clemence Albertine (née Mendes-Monsanto), of Sephardic Jewish descent, was committed to a mental hospital shortly after. He was raised by an aunt, and later by foster parents. He attended the Mount Hermon School for Boys (later Northfield Mount Hermon) graduating in 1937, then the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he earned a B.A. in journalism in 1941. He began his journalism career by writing sports for The Daily Tar Heel, and published his first short stories in Carolina Magazine, for which Thomas Wolfe had written.

He served in the U.S. Navy throughout World War II, as the captain of a submarine chaser in the Normandy invasion. In 1947, he earned an M.A. degree in English literature from Columbia University with a thesis on John Ruskin and the British painter J. M. W. Turner. From Columbia, he went to the University of Paris and earned a Ph.D. in comparative literature with a dissertation on Paris as a symbol in modern poetry.

Ferlinghetti met his wife-to-be, Selden Kirby-Smith, the granddaughter of Edmund Kirby-Smith, in 1946 aboard a ship en route to France. They were both heading to Paris to study at the Sorbonne. Kirby-Smith went by the name Kirby.

He moved to San Francisco in 1951 and founded City Lights in North Beach in 1953, in partnership with Peter D. Martin, a student at San Francisco State University. They both invested $500. In 1955 Ferlinghetti bought Martin’s share and established a publishing house with the same name. The first series he published was the Pocket Poets Series. He was arrested for publishing Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, resulting in a First Amendment trial in 1957, where Ferlinghetti was charged with publishing an obscene work—and acquitted.

Ferlinghetti died of interstitial lung disease on February 22, 2021, at his home in San Francisco at age 101. – Available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License from Wikipedia.