“Cherkovski documents Ferlinghetti’s life in thoughtful prose . . . No one mulling this gentle record will fail to be moved.” —San Francisco Chronicle
Poet, publisher, bookseller, activist—this is the story of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the bookshop he made a landmark in San Francisco, and a life beautifully lived with writers and books.
In the mid-1950s a group of San Francisco-based writers emerged as a central force in American letters. Self-styled bohemians, disillusioned with the old American dream of prosperity and conformity, they harangued these “virtues” in their writings. They became known as the Beat Generation. Their ranks included Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Gregory Corso. But the unifying force among them was an unassuming, almost painfully shy young poet named Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
As owner of the now legendary City Lights Booksellers and its publishing enterprises, City Lights Publishers and its Pocket Poet Series, Ferlinghetti promoted the writings of his rebellious contemporaries, and continually looked for new talent to publish, while conducting a parallel though more personal search for self-identity through his own work. Although that search began with a lonely, unstable childhood in which he never knew his real parents, it would not become manifest until years later with the 1958 publication of his first collection of poems, A Coney Island of the Mind—that debut would go on to sell more than one million copies and become one of the bestselling and most popular books of poetry ever published.
In this, the first biography ever published of Ferlinghetti (originally released in 1979), Neeli Cherkovski recreated those early years of the poet-publisher and examined the content and import of his work. Long out-of-print, this is a crucial literary document by a man who knew the legendary poet-publisher-bookseller intimately.
This expanded edition—published just one year after Ferlinghetti’s passing in 2021 at the age of 101—includes a fascinating, hilarious new foreword about how the book came to be written in the late 1970s, an epilogue covering the last forty years of Ferlinghetti’s life, and a personal, tender afterword about the long relationship between the author and his subject.
For readers interested in American culture and how a business can make social change, this is an irresistible story of a long life very well lived.
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“Neeli Cherkovski’s new poem bubbles with improvisatory acumen, sounds echoing sentiment: the intelligence of affect melts into the necessity for resonance—before turning around to shake your hand: comrade! friend! reader!”
“moon songs, ethereal music and / stuff like that” a way to move through numbers, letters, jazz or orchestra: “music is thought / not feeling” “music is color / not form BUT / music is beyond” and the poems have form, a narrow shape down pages, the letters start to resonate, not just jumping off points, but sounds that rhythmically fight for stretches, of humanity, humility on the hill ahead. Neeli is at his loosest here, his swing gathers him into its gullet. “hi! / how are you?” he can suddenly ask the reader, anyone. Lines swell and recede like the waters. A terrific ride, he’ll keep you safe! Plus: a bonus ABC for Jack Hirschman!”
“In the age-old tradition of alphabet poems, from Psalm 119, to St. Augustine, to Chaucer, to Edward Lear and the present, Neeli Cherkovski’s ABC’S expand the poet’s singing voice, discovering remarkable musicality in the verse’s every turn. Throughout the sequence, Cherkovski delivers intoxicating melodies, forms of silence often dizzying in their new familiarity.”
Hang On To The Yangtze River
Pub Date: 9/1/2020
A new collection from Neeli Cherkovski who has spent a lifetime in service to Poetry. More closely than ever the poet explores his life of exhausting hyperactivity. These poems embody the rewards and difficulties of the unfettered energy of a person living with ADD, as in the poem, “Hyper Me…,” “I do not wish to sit still folding the menu, / I need to jump up and head south / onto the fast lane / listening to Country & Western / shutting my eyes // sit still! / learn to listen! / finish what you started! / meditate! / pet a weasel! / the engine purrs…” The book’s title comes from a line in the poem, “Elegy For Steve Dalachinsky,” a good friend who died as this manuscript was being compiled. Forever climbing on Poetry mountain, Cherkovski contemplates the looming abyss and, as the airy summit beckons, he goes on celebrating this existence, every exuberant moment.
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The life of Charles Bukowski—laureate of lowlife Los Angeles—a novelist and poet who wrote as he lived. This is the only biography of Bukowski written by a close friend and collaborator and may be the closest readers will come to meeting the man himself—an unforgettable encounter no one should miss.
The author of Ham on Rye, Post Office, and other perennial bestselling novels, short stories, and poetry collections only ever wanted to be a writer. Maybe that’s why Bukowski’s voice is so real and immediate that readers felt included in a conversation. “In his written work, he’s a hero, a fall guy, a comic character, a womanizing lush, a wise old dog,” biographer Neeli Cherkovski writes. “His readers do more than glimpse his many-sidedness. For some, it’s a deep experience. They feel as if his writing opens places inside of themselves they might never have seen otherwise. Often a reader comes away feeling heroic, because the poet has shown them that their ordinary lives are imbued with drama.”
Neeli Cherkovski began a deep friendship with Bukowski in the 1960s while guzzling beer at wrestling matches or during quieter evenings discussing life and literature in Bukowski’s East Hollywood apartment. Over the decades, those hundreds of conversations took shape as this biography—now with a new preface, “This Thing Upon Me Is Not Death: Reflections on the Centennial of Charles Bukowski.”
Full of anecdotes, wisdom, humor, and insight, this is an essential companion to the work of a great American writer. Long-time Bukowski fans will come away with fresh insights while readers new to his work will find this an exhilarating introduction. “In his death, I hear him clearly,” Cherkovski writes. “His voice comes to me resonant, full of unforced authority, a message of endurance, self-reliance, and honesty of expression. At the same time, he is also saying, ‘Poetry is a dirty dishrag. Keep laughing at yourself on the way out the door.’ ”
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Coolidge & Cherkovski: In Conversation
Edited by Kyle Harvey
Introduction by Patrick James Dunagan
October 1st, 2020
Edited by Kyle Harvey with an introduction by Patrick James Dunagan.
A transcribed conversation between two prolific American poets. Swapping personal stories and anecdotes, Coolidge and Cherkovski offer insight into a wide range of topics including: the New York School, the San Francisco poetry scene of the 60s/70s/80s, the Language School, the Vancouver Poetry Conference, the Berkeley Poetry Conference, David Meltzer, Allen Ginsberg, John Ashbery, Charles Olson, Gertrude Stein, Philip Whalen, Charles Bukowski, Bernadette Mayer, Willem de Kooning, Philip Guston and more. Includes lengthy appendices where each poet presents some thoughts on poetics and their approaches to writing poems.
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Elegy For My Beat Generation
Feb. 2018 (Lithic Press)
Elegy For My Beat Generation is a masterful river of lyricism, spilling from one perception into the next. In these odes and elegies Cherkovski pays homage to his aging and gone friends from the heyday of all their lives, contemplates his own dwindling days, and attempts to come to grips with ultimate ends.
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In the Odes
(Magra Books 2018)
In the Odes is Neeli Cherkovski’s homage to two of the most important influences in his career as a poet, Confucius and Ezra Pound. A mature look, as well as a poetic inventory and self-examination, of what it has meant for Cherkovski to be a poet immersed in the natural world. As Pound looked to Confucius, Cherkovski examines his own work in the light of the 20th century master’s debt to the Confucian tradition.
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The Crow and I
R.L. Crow Publications
Neeli Cherkovski continues his poetic exploration started with his PEN Award winning LEANING AGAINST TIME, followed by FROM THE CANYON OUTWARD and now with his THE CROW AND I. Cherkovski, again opens the window to the self as he takes us deeper into his search of time, reason, redemption and love. In this, the third in his series of poetic memoirs, Cherkovski reflects on his sexuality, the lives he has touched and been touched by, and his love of his adopted city, San Francisco. Cherkovski, now a reluctant elder, has found his place in the garden. A place where friends of every sort are welcome to sit, rest their wings, sip a cappuccino and share a life time of wonder with the poet—forever in full flight.
“I first met Neeli Cherovski in the Caffe Trieste in 1977, he sat at the table next to mine, quietly reciting a new poem to a friend. We began a conversation about poetry and painting that has continued for thirty-five years. As his faithful companion I would follow him across the hills of San Francisco day and night, listening to him recite and discuss Lorca, Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and Ezra Pound. In his small apartment at 28 Harwood Alley he created a warm and wise shelter for poets young and old, feeding them and caring for their writing. For months at a time he took in Bob Kaufman, Gregory Corso, Marty Matz, and others in need. In the midst of this generous life Neeli wrote poems daily. He celebrated a love and learning in language that is exuberant, vivid, and reflective. Neeli lives for poetry. Long may this great imagination thrive.”—Raymond Foye
“Writing now at the height of his powers, Neeli Cherkovski has evolved into a quintessential San Francisco poet of international stature—speaking not only to our times but back across the ages to those greats of whom he is a certain successor: Whitman and Neruda, Patchen and Pasolini, his poems, hard-earned yet easeful, lyrical but tough.”—Alan Kaufman
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Manila Poems (Bottle of Smoke Press)
From the Middle Woods
New Native Press
In FROM THE MIDDLE WOODS, Neeli Cherkovski has done the nearly impossible: he has blended the sacred and the profane, as well as the essences of pristine nature and concrete commerce. Originally inspired by The Confucian Odes, the poems in this collection bring to mind the lovely acrobatics of Tu Fu and Marichiko in translations by Kenneth Rexroth. Cherkovski’s “elemental” poems, sprung from personal experiences, bring to life such landscapes and sensations as the pungent odors of ocean and pine needles along the tree-studded coast of northern California. Here, East meets West and politics meets wilderness head on, yet gently, in Cherkovski’s capable and caring sculptor’s hands. This book is masterful proof that modern irony and self-absorbed narrative do not rule the American literary psyche, nor is true compassion dead in America’s harbors and woods.
From the Canyon Outward
R.L. Crow Publications
With his new collection, Neeli Cherkovski continues the exploration started with his award winning LEANING AGAINST TIME. He once again opens the window to the self and takes us deeper into his search for reason, redemption and love–Cherkovski takes us on a journey through his innermost being, leading us FROM THE CANYON OUTWARD. “I squirm against blurb words like ‘magisterial’ and ‘fully realized’ and God knows–‘profound,’ but Neeli Cherkovski’s new book is a deeply rich work which reminds me of the best of Rexroth’s nature poems, which to me is a major accomplishment. But more than that, there’s a deep philosophical and elegiac edge to the beauty of the words & lines”–David Meltzer.