City Lights San Francisco

city LightsThe quietness on this blog can be explained by the fact that I got married and went on a honeymoon with my wife June. We toured through the USA. Lots of memorable things from the holiday, but one of particular note was the time we spent in San Francisco.

Whilst there I completed a pilgrimage that has taken 35 years to complete. When I was a student in Liverpool studying a degree in English Literature and Philosophy all that time ago, I studied a module on the Beat writers. We looked at some wonderful writers some of whom have had a big influence on the voice which I developed as I matured as a writer. In particular, I loved the books I bought by Frank O’Hara and Allen Ginsberg. Two books I bought at the time – ‘Lunch Poems’ by O’Hara and ‘Howl and other poems’ by Ginsberg have had a place on my bookshelf ever since. They were published in the Pocket Poets series from a bookshop called the City Lights in San Francisco.

I was really excited when I looked it up and found that the bookshop is still in existence. In fact, it is thriving. We went to take a look. Where else can you go and find an independent bookshop that is open from 10.0 am to midnight every day, has a whole floor dedicated to poetry, and still has a vibrant publishing house producing poetry and radical free thinking books.

And the bit of the story which really captured my imagination was the fact that the bookshop’s founder, poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, is still involved with the shop. He is now 96 years old and still active in the poetry scene. What an inspiration.

Was I impressed? Yes, it was an amazing place. I bought some books – and then rambled in a crazed voice to the shop assistant, telling her the story of my 35 year wait to visit the shop.

The range of books in stock was incredible – I don’t think I have seen such a diverse mix of poetry anywhere else. Result – my faith restored in the world of bookshops and publishers. And some ideas linger that may just have inspired me!

Oh, and a few more books to add to the pile of books to be read.


Also published on Medium.

One thought on “City Lights San Francisco”

  1. I did not know about your interest in Allen Ginsberg, otherwise I would have told you my story about going to see him read his poetry live when I was 15, and how excited I was to get his signature on a book I purchased.

    Independent bookstores are a passion of mine as well, and City Lights is definitely going on my list of places to visit. I am glad you and June enjoyed it!

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