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Happy Birthday City Lights!

By Harriet Staff

Can’t decide how to celebrate City Lights’s 60th birthday? Try this on for size- courtesy of City Lights’ blog:

C’est Street Fair 1959 an “ektachrome,” yes ektachrome, home movie by Edward Silverstone Taylor, documenting a Street Fair on Upper Grant Avenue, in San Francisco: “the center of beat culture.” (Right around the corner from City Lights, founded six years prior, at 261 Columbus Avenue nr. Broadway.)

Can you find “filmmaker Dion Vigne and his wife Loreon, artist and occultist Marjorie Cameron and her daughter Crystal, artist Wallace Berman and his wife Shirley, and Beat poet and surrealist Bob Kaufman” in this seven-minute film?

Well, if not, thank goodness there’s still a time and place to learn more!

Founded in 1953 in a small shop at the corner of Columbus Avenue and Broadway in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood, City Lights Bookstore is celebrating its 60th anniversary. Still in its original location, the store has expanded over the years to fill the entire building, sharing it with the offices of the fabled City Lights Publishing Company. City Lights Booksellers & Publishers continues to be owned by its original co-founder, poet, painter, publisher and defender of free speech, Lawrence Ferlinghetti

The nation’s first all-paperback bookstore, City Lights Bookstore has expanded many times over the years and now offers both new-release hardcovers and quality paperbacks, including an impressive range of titles from smaller, harder-to-find, specialty publishers. Three floors of books in our historic landmark building offer our visitors a unique browsing experience, and City Lights’ Poetry Room on the very top floor features one of the most extensive collections of poetry found anywhere. In addition, you’ll find the best in fiction, translations, politics, history, philosophy, art and music, idiosyncratic collections such as “Surrealism,” “Commodity Aesthetics,” “Left Coast” — a section featuring books on San Francisco and California culture and history — and much more, all carefully chosen by our staff whose special interests in many fields contribute to the hand-picked quality of what you see on the shelves. And of course, all of the titles currently available from City Lights Publishers are proudly featured throughout the bookstore…

Lawrence Ferlinghetti launched City Lights Publishers in 1955 with the now-famous Pocket Poets Series. Ferlinghetti’s much-loved Pictures of the Gone World (still in print after more than 50 years) was Pocket Poets #1, and was soon followed by Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems (Pocket Poets #4), which Ferlinghetti defended in court against obscenity charges. Since then, the press has gone on to publish a wide range of titles — poetry and prose, fiction and nonfiction, international and local authors — and has established a solid reputation for its commitment to innovative literature and progressive ideas. Today, City Lights has well over two hundred titles in print, with 15 new titles being published each year.

With this bookstore-publisher combination “it is as if,” says Ferlinghetti, “the public were being invited, in person and in books, to participate in that ‘great conversation’ between authors of all ages, ancient and modern.” Asked to comment on the significance of the longevity of his project, Ferlinghetti enthuses: “The Golden Age of City Lights continues!”

Vive le 1953!

Happy Birthday, City Lights!

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Posted in Poetry News on Wednesday, May 8th, 2013 by Harriet Staff.