Poetry Spotlight: A Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
When A Coney Island of the Mind was released in 1958, the Beat Generation was in full swing, the conservative post-war atmosphere was at its peak and rock n’ roll was just coming to fruition.
Ferlinghetti seemed to sense the mood, concerns, and goings on of an entire generation and put a voice to it with A Coney Island of the Mind. In a short collection of poems, Ferlinghetti explores the fear of nuclear war, the jazz scene, childhood memories, absurdity, irony, and art.
The language of A Coney Island of the Mind is spectacular in its simplicity, beauty and subtle humour. Its poems of candy stores and childhood crushes stand out as an exception to the rule of his time and place. While many of his peers were making graphically detailed reference to anal sex and drug overdoses, Ferlinghetti recalls a more innocent time, and contrasts it with the collective fears of the present.
In Constantly Risking Absurdity, we come to understand the mind of a poet, in I Am Waiting we hear an unquestionably common desire for a revolution of some kind – of any kind. Page by page, we come to realize the passion, the fear, the anger and the love of a generation of lost souls. Of men who were raised through one war and prepared for the next. Of men who craved change, who craved freedom, who craved peace. Of men who were seeking fulfillment, seeking Nirvana, seeking God and seeking pleasure. Men who could no longer hide their frustrations, their pain or their souls. In this small collection of poems, Ferlinghetti gave a voice to the voiceless and a face to the invisible.