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Sample essay topic, essay writing: Lawrence Ferlinghettis Politics - 1539 words
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Lawrence Ferlinghetti's PoliticsI hope I won't seem too politically incorrect for saying this but afterimmersing myself in the writings of the guilt-obsessed asexual Jack Kerouac, theridiculously horny Allen Ginsberg and the just plain sordid William S.Boroughs.. it's nice to read a few poems by a guy who can get excited about alittle candy store under the El or a pretty woman letting a stocking drop to thefloor ("Literary Kicks").For casual reading, Lawrence Ferlinghetti's poetry is cheerful andhumorous. At best it is a welcome break for the mainstream of the "beatgeneration." Inside his poetry, deep rooted criticisms of the United Statesexist. Ferlinghetti has had an anti-government attitude since the 1950's. Hisbeliefs strengthened when he was put on trial for publishing a highlycontroversial collection of poems written by Allen Ginsberg. LawrenceFerlinghetti has chosen to express his political views through his poetry.Additionally, Ferlinghetti became more vocal with the use of protests andfurther publication of controversial and/or anti-government materials throughhis publishing house, New Directions.
By using poetry, Ferlinghetti was able toreach a vast audience including those whom he was criticizing. Through hispoetry, Lawrence Ferlinghetti blatantly and subtly criticized the Americandemocratic system and politicians. In 1957, Ferlinghetti received his first national attention.Ferlinghetti was arrested and brought to trial as the publisher of a collectionof obscene poetry, Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg (Alspaugh 1148).Eventually he was cleared of the charges of "publishing and sale of obscenewritings." Since his involvement in the obscenity trial, Ferlinghetti becamequite cynical of the government. After the trial ended, Lawrence Ferlinghetticanceled all government grants coming to him and to any writers under hispublishing house. Currently he still disallows the acceptance of governmentgrants to any of his writers (Alspaugh 1146)
Economically speaking,Ferlinghetti did benefit from the trial. The publicity created by the trialattracted new names to New Directions Publishing. The publicity also was greatenough to propel Lawrence Ferlinghetti's image to the degree where he couldsuccessfully release his second collection of poetry, A Coney Island of the Mind.In most of Ferlinghetti's work, he has shown a concern with political issues. "His poetry often addresses political subjects.." (Nasso 196). The KennedyAssassination, McCarthyism and the Vietnam conflict were all topics in severalFerlinghetti poems (Oppenheimer 136). Lawrence Ferlinghetti's past incidentsinvolving the government influenced his poetry and consequentially he has littlerespect for government.
"Ferlinghetti's.. poetry offered blatant tiradesagainst the destructive tendencies of America's political leadership" (Trosky136). Politics are themes in virtually all of Ferlinghetti's works. AFerlinghetti poem cannot be appreciated without examining the entire poem andfinding all of the subtle and open criticisms of the government. For example,the poem "Underwear" is a light-hearted, comedic poem.. or so it appears.Ferlinghetti begins with the comedic approach mocking a typical underwearadvertisement as he says:You have seen the three color pictures / with crotches encircled / toshow the areas of extra strength / and three way stretchFurther through the passage, his word choice becomes conspicuous. "Don't be deceived / It's all based on the two party system / which doesn't allowmuch freedom of choice." The phrase where Ferlinghetti's word choice begins tohint a theme other than a parody of an underwear advertisement is "..promisingfull freedom of action." Specifically, the choice of the word "freedom" asopposed to "elasticity" or "range" is ambiguous.
In the lines which follow,Ferlinghetti makes it clear that he is criticizing the government. The readeris blatantly warned not to "..be deceived / It's all based on the two-partysystem / which doesn't allow much freedom of choice." In this passage, LawrenceFerlinghetti is clearly stating what is wrong with the political system in theUnited states. He is saying how the suppression of freedoms by the governmentis deteriorating our government. Ferlinghetti expressed his opinion about the Government in "The World IsA Beautiful Place" by making a blunt statement of his beliefs. Not only didFerlinghetti attack government (specifically his target in this poem was theHouse Un-American Activities Committee), but he attacked segregation, highranking officials, and the lack of diversity in society. The following excerptcontains examples of each.Oh the world is a beautiful place / to be born into / if you don't muchmind / a few dead minds / in the higher places / or a bomb or two / now and then/ in your upturned faces / or such other improprieties / as our Name Brandsociety / is prey to / with its men of distinction / and its men of extinction /and its priests / and other patrolmen / and it various segregations / andcongressional investigations / and other constipations / that our fool flesh /is heir to.Evidence of criticism of political officials clearly comes from thephrases "if you don't much mind / a few dead minds / in the higher places."This is showing a lack of faith of the elected officials holding esteemedoffices.
"Or such other improprieties / as our Name Brand society / is prey to"expresses Ferlinghetti's disapproval of the lack of diversity in society. Bycoining the public as a "Name Brand society," Ferlinghetti shows that themainstream will conform to the status quo. His use of capitalization in "NameBrand" emphasizes the generic quality bequeathed upon the public. LaterFerlinghetti mentions that segregation is a problem. Ferlinghetti also mentionsthat "congressional investigations" plague the world. This is a reference tothe House Un-American Activities Committee, which persecuted artists and idolsin the film industry for their actions and words. Lawrence Ferlinghetti's "TheWorld Is A Beautiful Place" provides a little more focus on specific issueswhich are dishe artening to Ferlinghetti while maintaining a clear anti-government theme. Expanding upon his anti-government theme in "Dog," Ferlinghetti alsointroduces a belief of non-alliance to a conformist government and politicalparties (i.e. Democrat/Republican).
Also present is the disapproval of theHouse Un-American Activities Committee. Various lines of the poem "Dog" can beused to prove both of the aforementioned argument.A real live / barking / democratic dog / engaged in real / freeenterprise / with something to say / about ontology / something to say / aboutreality.The dog represents Lawrence Ferlinghetti in society. The dog will notconform to society's political notions. The dog is not a Democrat or aRepublican; however, it is at least "democratic" (Alspaugh 1150). There arealso several slurs directed to the House Un-American Activities Committee.He doesn't hate cops / He merely has no use for them / and he goes pastthem / and past the dead cows hung up whole / in front of the San Francisco MeatMarket / He would rather eat a tender cow / than a tough policeman / thougheither might do / And he goes past the Romeo Ravioli Factory / and past Coit'sTower / and past Congressman Doyle of the un-American Committee / He's afraid ofCoit's Tower / but he's not afraid of Congressman Doyle / ..
/ He will not bemuzzled / Congressman Doyle is just another / fire hydrant / to him.The continual references to a "Congressman Doyle" were referring to theCongressman Doyle of the House Un-American Activities Committee (Alspaugh 1150).The dog has respect for several things: the San Francisco Meat Market, Coit'sTower, and to an extent the police. Although the dog does not hate the police,he will stand up to and condemn them should they be wrong. This is evident bythe statement "He would rather eat a tender cow / than a tough policeman /though either will do." The dog does not exhibit any respect for Doyle asevident by the lines "Congressman Doyle is just another / fire hydrant / to him."Use of the term "fire hydrant" expresses Ferlinghetti's theoretical actionstowards Mr. Doyle. Government in general was a "fire hydrant" to Ferlinghetti. Ferlinghetti used his poetry to express his opinions, dissent anddissatisfactions about the United States government. In poems like "Underwear,"Ferlinghetti warns the unenlightened to beware of a government which is not whatit seems. With moving verses such as those in "The World Is A Beautiful Place,"Lawrence Ferlinghetti named several specific downfalls in twentieth centurysociety and politics.
These included the ignorance of the public with theirwillingness to conform, segregation, and government restriction of freedoms. Invicious attacks such as the ones present in "Dog," Ferlinghetti dealt scathingwords on specific ills which plague him and his fellow non-conformists.Lawrence Ferlinghetti has moved the readers of his poetry and shown that theidealistic view of America may not be as rose colored as it appears.Ferlinghetti suggested that the citizens should examine individuals andinstitutions rather than automatically granting trust because of their position."It should.. be realized that a significant amount of his work is social poetry...Ferlinghetti sees himself as a prophet, he clearly has a sense of audiencethat many other poets do not" (Hopkins 176). Lawrence Ferlinghetti has taken onthe responsibility of informing the public of a lurking evil entity, thegovernment. Ferlinghetti has shown his readers that "The world is a beautifulplace..
if you don't mind a touch of hell now and then."Works CitedAlspaugh, John. "Lawrence Ferlinghetti." Magill's Critical Survey ofPoetry. Vol. 3. Ed. Frank H.
Magill. Englewood Cliffs: Salem Press, 1992. 1145-1151.Ferlinghetti, Lawrence. Endless Life: Selected Poems. San Francisco:New Directions, 1981.Hopkins, Crale D.
"The Poetry of Lawrence Ferlinghetti: A Reconsideration."Italian Americana, 1974, 59-76. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism.Vol. 10. Ed.
Dedria Bryfonski. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1979. 174-178."Literary Kicks: "Lawrence Ferlinghetti." (Internet Search).http://www.charm.net/~brooklyn/people/lawr enceferlinghetti.html.Nasso, Christine. ed. "Lawrence Ferlinghetti." Contemporary Authors:New Revision Series. Vol. 3. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1981.Oppenheimer, Joel.
"Weathered Well." The New York Times Book Review,1981, 40-41. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 27. Ed.Jean C. Stein.
Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1984. 136-139.Trosky, Susan M. ed. "Lawrence Ferlinghetti." Contemporary Authors: NewRevision Series. Vol.
41. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1994.
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