In Goya’s Greatest Scenes We Seem to See . . .

By Lawrence Ferlinghetti b. 1919 Lawrence Ferlinghetti
In Goya’s greatest scenes we seem to see
                                           the people of the world   
       exactly at the moment when
             they first attained the title of
                                                             ‘suffering humanity’   
          They writhe upon the page
                                        in a veritable rage
                                                                of adversity   
          Heaped up
                     groaning with babies and bayonets
                                                       under cement skies   
            in an abstract landscape of blasted trees
                  bent statues bats wings and beaks
                               slippery gibbets
                  cadavers and carnivorous cocks
            and all the final hollering monsters
                  of the
                           ‘imagination of disaster’
            they are so bloody real
                                        it is as if they really still existed

    And they do

                  Only the landscape is changed

They still are ranged along the roads   
          plagued by legionnaires
                     false windmills and demented roosters
They are the same people
                                     only further from home
      on freeways fifty lanes wide
                              on a concrete continent
                                        spaced with bland billboards   
                        illustrating imbecile illusions of happiness

                       
                        The scene shows fewer tumbrils
                                                but more strung-out citizens
                                                                     in painted cars
                               and they have strange license plates   
                           and engines
                                           that devour America

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “In Goya’s Greatest Scenes We Seem to See...” from Coney Island of the Mind. Copyright © 1958 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation, www.wwnorton.com/nd/welcome.htm.

Source: These Are My Rivers: New and Selected Poems (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1993)

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Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti b. 1919

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

SCHOOL / PERIOD Beat

Subjects Painting & Sculpture, Arts & Sciences

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Ekphrasis

 Lawrence  Ferlinghetti

Biography

As poet, playwright, publisher, and activist, Lawrence Ferlinghetti helped to spark the San Francisco literary renaissance of the 1950s and the subsequent “Beat” movement. Like the Beats, Ferlinghetti felt strongly that art should be accessible to all people, not just a handful of highly educated intellectuals. His career has been marked by its constant challenge of the status quo; his poetry engages readers, defies popular . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Painting & Sculpture, Arts & Sciences

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

SCHOOL / PERIOD Beat

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Ekphrasis

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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