FERLINGHETTI DAY: two standing ovations

(Daniel Yaryan)

“Poets, come out of your closets,
Open your windows, open your doors,
You have been holed-up too long
in your closed worlds.”

Lawrence Ferlinghetti (from Populist Manifesto)

Ferlinghetti’s call to the masses took fruition on the evening of Tuesday, October 18th in Santa Cruz as more than 500 people, mostly Santa Cruzans, turned out to celebrate “Lawrence Ferlinghetti Day” in Santa Cruz at the Del Mar Theatre.

The Grand Auditorium was filled to the brink with excited faces anticipating a sight of the 92-year-old legend in person, receiving a proclamation in classic key-to-the-city style ceremony. He was there to be honored by the City of Santa Cruz for his years of being connected to the Santa Cruz literary arts community. The community at-large was ecstatic to see him there—with two standing ovations to prove it.

“Ferlinghetti was instrumental in putting Santa Cruz on the literary map as a haven for poetic arts through his participation in the original Santa Cruz Poetry Festivals three decades ago, paving the way for future generations of poets, writers, musicians and artists,” said Santa Cruz Mayor Ryan Coonerty in his proclamation. “On behalf of the City Of Santa Cruz, I proclaim October 18th Lawrence Ferlinghetti Day.”

As part of the Lawrence Ferlinghetti Day celebration, produced by Sparring With Beatnik Ghosts and Nickelodeon Theatres, live music was performed by singer/songwriter Ruebi Lynn Jimenez to kick off the event. This was followed by a rare 3-minute short film-poem “The History Of The Airplane” with Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s aviator-goggled face filling the entire big screen with his signature charismatic panache and delivery. Famous Beat photo-grapher and documentary filmmaker Christopher Felver had a special screening of his “Ferlinghetti” film (watch the trailer below) at the Del Mar movie palace for its Santa Cruz premiere, a true ode to the man behind the words of A Coney Island Of The Mind—the world’s best-selling book of poetry.

Felver’s documentary was as thorough an exploration of the life and work of the poet, painter, publisher and American literary icon as one could possibly craft—years in the making, with extensive interviews, rare performance clips, historic footage and an impressive soundtrack including music from early Jack Kerouac collaborator, composer David Amram (Pull My Daisy). The Del Mar audience roared with applause after the credits rolled.

The night belonged to Ferlinghetti, who joined his friend-of-30-years Felver for a 30 minute Q&A session that gave the audience an opportunity to ask questions that ranged from the Howl trial and the humble beginnings of his world-renowned City Lights Bookstore and Publishers to his take on the Occupy Wall Street movement and advice for aging artists. The lion’s share of the questions went to Ferlinghetti, who answered as completely and comfortably as if he were having a fireside chat in his living room. It was a rare occasion to witness the impressive public speaking skills that brought this seasoned word warrior to the top of literary super(super)stardom.

The event in Santa Cruz also prompted dialogue about having a similar day in New Orleans, prompted by surrealist poet and NPR contributor, Andrei Codrescu.

Check out pictures from the event here.