Book Release: Neeli Cherkovski’s ‘Ferlinghetti: A Life’

Neeli Cherkovski’s first-ever biography of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, originally published in 1979, has been republished in a newly revised and expanded edition by the illustrious Black Sparrow Press!

Poet, publisher, bookseller, activist.
This is the story of Lawrence Ferlinghetti,
the bookshop he made a San Francisco landmark,
and a long life beautifully lived.

In the mid-1950s, a group of writers emerged as a central force in American letters. Self-styled bohemians, disillusioned with the old American dream of conformity and prosperity, they became known as the Beat Generation. Their ranks included William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Gregory Corso. But the unifying force among them was an unassuming, shy young poet named Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

As owner of the now legendary City Lights Booksellers & Publishers and its influential Pocket Poet Series, Ferlinghetti promoted the writings of his rebellious contemporaries, while conducting a parallel and more personal search for self-identity through his own work. That search began with a lonely, unstable childhood in which he never knew his real parents, and became manifest decades later with the 1958 publication of A Coney Island of the Mind—the collection went on to sell more than one million copies and become one of the bestselling and most popular books of poetry ever published.

In this, the first biography ever published of Ferlinghetti (originally released in 1979), Neeli Cherkovski recreates the poet-publisher’s early years, and examines the content and import of his work. Long out-of-print, this is a crucial literary document by a writer given Ferlinghetti’s full cooperation, including access to
primary sources.

This expanded edition of Ferlinghetti: A Life—nearly 17,000 words have been added to the original edition—includes a hilarious new foreword about how the book came to be written in the late 1970s, an epilogue filling in the last forty years of Ferlinghetti’s life, and an affectionate afterword about the long relationship between the biographer and his subject.

Neeli Cherkovski is a poet, as well as an editor, memoirist, and biographer. In his early 20s, he and Charles Bukowski launched a short-lived mimeographed literary
magazine, Laugh Literary and Man the Humping Guns. He is the author Bukowski, A Life: The Centennial Edition.

Cherkovski has written many books of poetry, most recently Hang on to the Yangtze River, and ABCs, and served as the co-editor of Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman. Cherkovski is the subject of the independent documentary feature It’s Nice to Be With You Always.

Cherkovski lives in San