City Lights

City Lights Press. San Francisco, California. (1953-present)

City Lights, founded by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, operates out of the San Francisco-based City Lights Bookstore. Originally, the bookstore was called Pocket Bookshop; Ferlinghetti and Peter Martin at first sold only paperbacks and magazines. The name changed with the advent of Ferlinghetti’s Pocket Poets Series, of which Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems was first published as number four, following the famous 1956 Six Gallery reading. Ferlinghetti was subsequently arrested and tried for the sale of obscene material; he was later acquitted.

City Lights was formative in the San Francisco Renaissance, publishing works by local poets, other Beat and Black Mountain artists, and international figures such as Lorca, Rimbaud, Picasso, and Neruda. City Lights journal, which Ferlinghetti founded in 1963, featured, in its first issue, work by Ginsberg, Burroughs, Kerouac, Ed Sanders, Gary Snyder, and Neal Cassady; City Lights also published Ginsberg, Bob Kaufman, and John Kelly’s Beatitude Anthology, a vital mode of exchange in the North Beach Beat community.

Ferlinghetti and City Lights still flourish, maintaining their independent, counter-establishment emphasis and playing a focal role in contemporary poetics and literature.