Ferlinghetti Day is Coming for You!
Unfettered by physical boundaries, poetic spirit moves online
I first saw Urban Forester Chris Buck banging a large Celtic drum on the corner of Broadway and Columbus while a white-bearded friend in a black beret declaimed from a book of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poetry. It didn’t seem unusual at the time.
It was March 24, 2019 — the 100th birthday of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, founder of City Lights Bookstore and San Francisco’s first poet laureate, and his poetry was being read throughout North Beach: outside Caffe Trieste, inside City Lights, and on this particularly vibrant street corner, beneath the sculpture of flying books, atop the swirl of words they dropped on the pavement.
I stopped to listen, enthralled, caught up in the excitement of the moment, having stumbled onto the events without knowing of their existence, and learned that Buck wasn’t merely a member of the multitude out to celebrate Ferlinghetti’s centennial, but a third-time celebrant on a personal mission to establish a new holiday in San Francisco and beyond: Ferlinghetti Day.
The first one, begun at 7:06am in front of 706 Wisconsin Street in 2017, was attended by precisely one person: Chris Buck.
“I had invited others and when I turned the corner and looked up Wisconsin Street, I was expecting to see about 50 people. But when I saw I was the only one, I was greatly relieved,” he said.
Buck made the 5-mile trek alone that first day, walking from the home where Ferlinghetti and his wife raised their two children on Potrero Hill to the iconic bookstore in North Beach, stopping at various sites along the way to read a poem he thought fit the setting: “The Changing Light” at the outset of his literary walkabout, as the sun rose outside the Ferlinghetti family home; “Baseball Canto” at the diamond on Arkansas and 17th Street; “How to Paint Sunlight” outside the Audiffred Building where Ferlinghetti had a painting studio in the 1950s, and “San Francisco Poet Laureate Inaugural Address and The Poetic City That Was” outside the Ferry Building at the foot of Market Street.