Southern Methodist University

Lawrence Ferlinghetti papers

A Guide to the Collection


Creator: Ferlinghetti, Lawrence
Title: Lawrence Ferlinghetti papers
Dates: 1967-1972
Abstract: Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poet, painter, book designer and graphic artist, was an important leader in the American poetry revival in San Francisco in the 1950s. The collection, consisting of approximately 53 items, comprises a variety of materials relating to the business and personal affairs of Ferlinghetti and other members of the Beat culture. Letters, postcards, and notes, primarily from Ferlinghetti to his secretary, Gail Chiarrello, discussing his publishing house and bookstore, City Lights Booksellers and Publishers, and personal news. The collection includes typescript poems and prose works, some with manuscript annotations, City Lights catalogs, handbills, news releases, and a photograph of Ferlinghetti.
Accession No: Mss 0013c
Extent: 9 folders (53 items)
Language: Material is in English
Repository DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

Historical Note

As did other members of the Beat generation, Ferlinghetti and his fellow poets rejected the values of Middle America. They searched their souls, found alternate ways of experiencing and relating to the world around them, and through their writing, attempted to return poetry back to the masses.

Common beliefs held by members of this group were: an opposition to violence in both art and life, a concern for the development of the whole man, and the idea that love provides meaning in life. These beliefs played an important role in the shaping of the counter culture, which appeared in the 1960s, represented by the "Hippie" movement. Ferglinghetti believed that through the establishment of his bookstore in 1953, City Lights Pocket Bookshop (now called City Lights Books; the first all paper-bound bookstore in the country), he established a cultural center that linked the Beats of the fifties to the Hippies of the sixties.

Born on March 24, 1919 or 1920, probably in Yonkers, N.Y., perhaps in the Virgin Islands or in Paris, France, Lawrence Ferlinghetti was the fifth and last son of Clemence (Monsanto) and Charles S. Ferlinghetti. His father, an Italian auctioneer, arrived without papers in this country from Lombardy around the turn of the century. Ferlinghetti’s father shortened the family name to Ferling and it remained that way until 1954 when Lawrence restored the name to its original form.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti did not know his parents because his father died suddenly before his birth and his mother was enclosed in an asylum shortly after she gave birth to him. A French "aunt" (Emily Monsanto) took Lawrence Ferlinghetti to France while still a baby. He remained there for an unknown number of years.

He eventually returned to the United States where he received a B.A. degree from the University of North Carolina, an M.A. degree from Columbia University in 1948 and a Doctorate de l’ Universite from the Sorbonne in Paris in 1951. During April of that year he married Kirby Selden Smith. They had two children – Julie and Lorenzo.

Ferlinghetti is noted for the establishment of his bookstore, publishing the Pocket poet Series, and his poetry. During his career, he has served as editor for all City Lights books; written numerous poems, broadsides, and novels; made a film; recorded readings of his poetry; and contributes to numerous books and journals.


Contemporary Authors: A Bio-Bibliographical Guide to Current Authors and Their Works, pp. 373-375.

Meltzer and Shoemaker. Bibliography from taped interview. Ferlinghetti Collection, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Lawrence Ferlinghetti papers provide only a minimal view of Ferlinghetti’s personal and business life. The correspondence is directed primarily to his secretary in small notes regarding various books and writing projects and humorously signed by Ferlinghetti.

The collection also includes various printed promotional material and a section entitled "Literary Productions" containing manuscript works by the poet. The most significant items are two typescripts by Ferlinghetti ("Autobiography" and "Junkman’s Obligato") that differ considerably from the published versions.

Arrangement of the Collection

The collection is organized into 4 series:
Series 1: Business and Personal Correspondence
Series 2: Miscellaneous
Series 3: Promotional Material
Series 4: Literary Productions


Access to Collection:

Collection is open for research use.

Publication Rights:

Permission to publish materials must be obtained from the Director of the DeGolyer Library.

Copyright Statement:

It is the responsibility of the user to obtain copyright authorization.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following terms in the Southern Methodist University Libraries' online catalog. Researchers desiring related materials may search the catalog using these terms.
Ferlinghetti, Lawrence.
Chiarello, Gail.
City Lights Booksellers and Publishers.
City Lights Books.
Poets, American--20th century.
Beat generation--Poetry.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Lawrence Ferlinghetti papers, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.

Acquisition Information

The Ferlinghetti Collection was purchased by Colophon, a friends group for the Southern Methodist University libraries in 1974 and was presented to the DeGolyer Library at that time.

Gift, Colophon, 1974.

Processed by

Linda James, Intern May 1982 with revisions by Dawn Letson.

Encoded by

Lara Corazalla, 2007.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Business and Personal Correspondence

Notes and letters from Ferlinghetti, mostly to his secretary and editorial assistant, the former Gail Chiarello (Dunsberry), a published poet, in her own right. The materials deal with a variety of subjects, principally having to do with Ferlinghetti’s publishing house (City Lights Booksellers and Publishers). Dated and undated 1969-1971. 36 items
1 Undated. 21 typed and manuscript notes and letters to Gail. Unsigned, typed, and signed variously as: "L", "LF", "X", "Larry", and "LAWRenzo".
2 1969-May 1970. 8 notes to Gail. Including one typed interview by Meltzer and Shoemaker (transcribed with many errors) of biographical and bibliographic information on Ferlinghetti. (see Kandell fld. 20 and Personal Promotional Materials fld. 70 Typed and signed variously.)
3 Oct. 1970-1971. 6 typed notes, letters and postcards to Gail. Typed and signed variously including the typed pseudonym "glommygusthepoetfucker." 1 typed and signed letter by Ferlinghetti’s new secretary, Nancy Phillips, to his past secretary, Gail.
4 March 23, 1970. Letter from Ferlinghetti to Gail with typed manuscript by Lenore Kandell entitled "Tempura, Chapter 6 of a Pornographic Dream Novel." (6 pp.)

Series 2: Miscellaneous

5 3 poems typed on postcards addressed to Ryan L. Petty, but never mailed. Signed by Ferlinghetti.
6 Letter, 28 Feb. 1970, from Ferlinghetti to "Gus & Phil" re: poetry reading and publishing projects.

Series 3: Promotional Material

7-8 Includes a photograph of Ferlinghetti, broadside publicity releases, catalogues, and other ephemera. 18 items

Series 4: Literary Productions

9 "Genesis of After the Cries of Birds." A seven page prose work by Ferlinghetti with his manuscript corrections throughout. This is an unsigned presentation copy to "Gary" [Snyder]. Typescript
"Autobiography" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. A poem differing considerably from the published version in A Coney Island of the Mind. 3 pp. Typescript.
"Junkman’s Obligato," by Ferlinghetti, also differing from published version in A Coney island of the Mind. 3 pp. Typescript.
"On Barricades: Revolution and Repression," Journal for the Protection of All Beings, No. 2, 1968 (missing)
Poem, untitled, n.d. signed Nunzio Dopio II [Ferlinghetti] on note card, typescript.