Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg: A Tangier Connection?

RIP Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poet, publisher and owner of the famous City Lights Bookstore, who died yesterday at age 101 in his hometown, San Francisco. Described in his New York Times obituary as the “spiritual godfather of the Beat movement,” Ferlinghetti had some indirect links to the city of Tangier, where some Beat Generation authors found themselves in the late 1950’s and early 60’s. The Guardian, in a fascinating 2015 interview with Ferlinghetti, noted communications between then Tangier-visiting Beat poet Allen Ginsberg and Ferlinghetti, concerning the obscenity trial that followed the publication of Ginsberg’s famous poem, Howl:

“The subsequent trial lasted months. Ginsberg, writing from Tangier where, between hanging out with Francis Bacon and Paul Bowles, he was assisting William Burroughs with the editing of Naked Lunch, was evidently concerned about its outcome. Characteristically, though, he struck a defiant note: ‘I guess this is more serious than the customs seizure … I’m really sorry I’m not there … I never thought I’d want to read Howl again but it would be a pleasure under these circumstances. It might give it a reality as ‘social protest’ I always feared was lacking without armed bands of outraged Gestapo.’ ”