Commentary: City Lights Turns 50

Poet Codrescu Pays Tribute to Legendary Book Store

Listen: Listen to Lawrence Ferlinghetti speak about the City Lights bookstore.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Lawrence Ferlinghetti owns cultural icon City Lights Books, which turns 50 on June 8. City Lights Archive hide caption

itoggle caption City Lights Archive

City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, a focal point of American alternative culture, marks its 50th anniversary on June 8. City Lights was founded in 1953 by Beat movement icon Lawrence Ferlinghetti, now Poet Laureate of San Francisco, and Peter D. Martin. The store's regulars included Jack Kerouac, author of the novel On the Road, and poet Allen Ginsberg.

City Lights helped publish Ginsberg's landmark 1956 poem "Howl," then successfully defended the controversial work in court, establishing new guidelines regarding freedom of speech.

For All Things Considered, NPR commentator Andrei Codrescu reads a poem in honor of City Lights — and in homage to Ferlinghetti's vision and relentless pursuit of a new cultural awakening.

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