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Ferlinghetti Show at Sonoma Valley Museum of Art

By Harriet Staff

Credit: Christian Kallen

The other day we looked at musicians who write poetry. Today, we’d like to look at poets who do more than write poetry. Or at least one poet—Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He was recently given a show at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art. From the Sonoma Patch:

Lawrence Ferlinghetti – writer of “A Coney Island of the Mind,” publisher of City Lights Books including Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”, and for the last 50 years a painter of idiosyncratic and compelling whimsy – was present at the opening of the newest exhibit at the SVMA, “Cross-Pollination: The Art of Lawrence Ferlinghetti.” The show runs through September 23; admission on Wednesdays is free.

The poet, publisher and artist – Renaissance man would not be too strong a term – sat in a dim spot at the far room of the gallery, surrounded well-wishers, art lovers, literary colleagues and fans who just wanted to shake the hand of a man who made cultural history. If his name is not a household word, perhaps you grew up in the wrong house: it was in mine, and in that of many of the patrons of the arts who were in attendance Friday night.

His works from large brightly decorated canvases to small studies to painted artifacts burst with a vital cross-pollination — hence the show’s title — of word and image, similar to the expressions of other Beat era artists such as “the Kenneths,” Rexroth and Patchen. Lines of poetry, eruptions of ideas, truncated logic and lengthy exposition scrawled their way across portraits and surreal landscapes. This is not technical painting, but it is inspired.

It’s how Ferlinghetti has always lived his life, and at 93, he’s pretty good at it. Ferlinghetti was a painter first, poet second, pursuing his craft at the Sorbonne in Paris shortly after his naval service in World War II. But it was his 1955 book A Coney Island of the Mind (published in 1958 by New Directions) that first brought him fame. The collection of poems has been translated into nine languages, with sales of over 1 million copies.

As illustrious as his poetry career has been, it’s been running in parallel with his work as a painter – or, perhaps more accurately, visual artist. His passion for image-making in paintings, drawings, prints, and mixed media that have been widely exhibited, including a major survey exhibition in 2010 in Rome and Calabria. To find them here, in Sonoma, is a coup for the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art for which executive director Kate Eilertsen is justifiably proud.

More after the jump!

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Posted in Poetry News on Thursday, June 28th, 2012 by Harriet Staff.