In ‘Populist Manifesto,‘ Lawrence Ferlinghetti passionately challenges poets to break free from isolation, engage with the pressing issues of the world, and embrace a socially conscious, accessible form of poetry.
He urges them to be voices for positive change, to celebrate the beauty of life, and to connect with the collective human experience. Through vivid imagery, humor, and strong language, Ferlinghetti calls for poetry that resonates deeply with readers, celebrates diversity, and inspires transformation in society. The poem serves as a powerful call to action for poets to use their craft as a force for social and environmental good.
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The poem ‘Populist Manifesto,‘ by Lawrence Ferlinghetti urges poets to break free from their isolated worlds and engage with the world around them.
The poem calls on poets to abandon their secluded spaces and elitist attitudes and come down to the streets where life and society exist. The poet laments the destruction caused by humanity, metaphorically represented by burning cities and the consumption of natural resources.
The poem criticizes poets who remain indifferent, hidden, or absorbed in intellectual games, emphasizing that poetry should not be an exclusive or secretive art. The time for introspection and self-absorption is over; it’s time for poets to communicate openly and connect with others, transcending linguistic barriers.
Ferlinghetti critiques various poetic movements and groups, emphasizing the need for a new approach. He calls for poets to speak with a fresh voice, breaking away from past conventions and self-absorption. The poem advocates for poetry that addresses real-world issues and the impending end of industrial civilization, urging poets to be vocal and engaged in shaping the world’s future.
The poet expresses frustration with the academic and elitist aspects of poetry and calls for a return to a more accessible and powerful form of expression. He celebrates the vitality of the streets, the diverse people, and the richness of life.
‘Populist Manifesto,‘ encourages poets to embrace a new, open, and inclusive poetry that connects with the masses, elevates public discourse, and addresses the pressing challenges of society and the environment. It advocates for poetry to become a conduit for collective experiences and emotions, fostering a deeper understanding of the world and its complexities. Ultimately, the poem envisions a renewed poetry that awakens the sleeping spirit of humanity and celebrates the beauty and potential of the world around us.
Structure and Form
The poem ‘Populist Manifesto,‘ by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, is written in a free verse form, structured as a single stanza containing a hundred and seventeen lines. The lack of a consistent rhyming scheme and metrical pattern contributes to its free-verse nature. The poet’s deliberate choice of this form allows for a more fluid and organic expression, unbounded by traditional poetic constraints.
The poem’s single-stanza structure creates a sense of continuity as if the poet’s thoughts flow seamlessly without interruption. This continuous flow mirrors the call for poets to come out of their secluded worlds and engage actively with the world. The absence of stanza breaks reinforces the poem’s central theme of unity and interconnectedness.
The free verse form further enhances the poem’s conversational tone, giving it a sense of direct address to the reader or the poetry community. It encourages an intimate and immediate connection as if the poet is speaking directly to each individual poet.
The lack of a consistent rhyme scheme allows the poet to focus on the message and ideas rather than conforming to formal poetic conventions. This form supports the poem’s call for breaking away from traditional norms and embracing a new, open, and liberated style of poetry.
Furthermore, the absence of a strict structure symbolizes the breaking down of barriers and the rejection of elitism in poetry. It emphasizes the need for a more inclusive and accessible form of expression that can communicate with a diverse audience.
In ‘Populist Manifesto,‘ Lawrence Ferlinghetti addresses several themes, urging poets to step out of their seclusion and engage with the world around them. One prominent theme is the destruction caused by human actions, symbolized by burning cities and the consumption of natural resources. For example, when he mentions “San Francisco’s burning” and “the trees are still falling,” he highlights the consequences of humanity’s disregard for the environment.
Another theme is the call for poets to abandon elitism and embrace a more open and inclusive approach to poetry. The poet criticizes poets who remain indifferent and isolated, emphasizing the need for a new, communal poetic language. He implores poets to “open your mouths with a new open speech” and “communicate with all sentient beings,” advocating for poetry that reaches a broader audience.
Ferlinghetti also addresses the state of contemporary poetry and its disconnection from real-world issues. He criticizes poets who engage in “little literary games” and emphasizes that poetry should not be a secretive or exclusive art. Instead, he calls for poetry that is relevant, engaged, and responsive to the pressing challenges of society and the environment.
The poem also explores the idea of a collective poetic voice and the power of poetry to unify and uplift humanity. Ferlinghetti urges poets to sing “the word en-masse” and envisions poetry as a “common carrier” that transports the public to higher realms of understanding.
Moreover, the theme of change and renewal runs through the poem. Ferlinghetti calls for a departure from past poetic movements and a fresh, innovative approach. He encourages poets to be vocal and active in shaping a new world, envisioning poetry that celebrates the beauty and potential of life.
Poetic Techniques and Figurative Language
In ‘Populist Manifesto,‘ Lawrence Ferlinghetti employs various poetic techniques and figurative language to convey his message effectively.
- Imagery: One prominent technique is the use of vivid imagery, such as “burning cities” and “falling trees,” to symbolize the destructive consequences of human actions on the environment. These images evoke a sense of urgency and emphasize the need for poets to address real-world issues.
- Repetition: Ferlinghetti also uses repetition to drive home his points. The phrase “No time now” is repeated throughout the poem, emphasizing the immediacy of the situation and the need for action. This repetition creates a sense of urgency and reinforces the poet’s call to engage actively with the world.
- Personification and Metaphor: Figurative language is employed to convey complex ideas and emotions. For instance, when he mentions, “Night & the Horse approaches eating light, heat & power, and the clouds have trousers,” he uses personification and metaphor to describe the impending darkness and its consumption of energy and resources.
- Allusions: The poet also employs allusions to historical and literary figures, such as “Mayakovsky’s Moscow” and “Whitman’s wild children,” to add depth and context to his message. These references connect his call for change to broader cultural and historical contexts.
- Juxtaposition: Ferlinghetti further uses juxtaposition to contrast the poets’ secluded worlds with the urgency of the external reality. He contrasts the poets in their “tepees and domes” with the world “burning” and “roasting its pig,” emphasizing the disconnect between poetry and real-world issues.
Poets, come out of your closets,
Open your windows, open your doors,
You have been holed-up too long
in your closed worlds.
Come down, come down
from your Russian Hills and Telegraph Hills,
your Beacon Hills and your Chapel Hills,
your Mount Analogues and Montparnasses,
down from your foot hills and mountains,
out of your tepees and domes.
In the opening lines of ‘Populist Manifesto,‘ Lawrence Ferlinghetti delivers a powerful and urgent message to poets, urging them to break free from their isolation and engage with the world around them. The poem serves as a call to action, challenging poets to abandon their secluded spaces and embrace a more open and inclusive approach to their craft.
The repetition of the imperative command “Poets, come out of your closets” emphasizes the poet’s insistence and urgency. By addressing poets directly, Ferlinghetti establishes a sense of personal responsibility, encouraging them to take an active role in shaping the world through their art.
The imagery of “Open your windows, open your doors” further reinforces the call for openness and accessibility. It suggests that poets need to let in fresh air and new perspectives, allowing their voices to resonate beyond their private spheres.
The phrase “holed-up too long in your closed worlds” critiques the poets’ tendency to isolate themselves from the realities of the external world. Here, the closed worlds represent the insular and sometimes elitist nature of poetry, which Ferlinghetti seeks to challenge and dismantle.
By mentioning specific locations like “Russian Hills and Telegraph Hills,” “Beacon Hills and Chapel Hills,” and “Mount Analogues and Montparnasses,” Ferlinghetti addresses a diverse audience of poets from different geographical and cultural backgrounds. This inclusive approach underscores the idea that poets from all walks of life must heed the call to action.
The imagery of “foot hills and mountains,” “tepees and domes” symbolizes the various forms of poetic retreats or intellectual ivory towers where poets often withdraw. Ferlinghetti urges them to come down from these elevated positions, signifying a return to a more grounded and engaged existence.
In these opening lines, Ferlinghetti’s message is clear: poets must step out of their comfort zones and echo chambers, embrace a more open and accessible form of expression, and actively participate in the world. The poem sets the stage for a profound exploration of the poet’s role in society and the need for poetry to address pressing real-world issues, making it a powerful rallying cry for a more socially and environmentally conscious poetic vision.
The trees are still falling
the fossil-fuels of life
In lines 11-20, Lawrence Ferlinghetti continues to convey his urgent message, focusing on the destruction caused by human actions and the need for poets to address these pressing issues through their art.
The imagery of “The trees are still falling” immediately draws attention to the environmental destruction caused by deforestation. This image serves as a powerful metaphor for the degradation of the natural world due to human exploitation and negligence.
The phrase “we’ll to the woods no more” laments the irreversible damage humanity has inflicted on the environment. The poet implies that the opportunity to enjoy the unspoiled beauty of nature is diminishing rapidly, and poets must act to prevent further devastation.
The line “No time now for sitting in them” criticizes poets who remain indifferent or apathetic towards environmental concerns. It urges them to stop being passive observers and instead actively engage with the issues at hand.
The metaphorical expression “As man burns down his own house to roast his pig” emphasizes the shortsightedness and self-destructive nature of human behavior. It symbolizes humanity’s willingness to sacrifice the long-term health of the planet for short-term gains.
Ferlinghetti critiques the futility of chanting “Hare Krishna” or engaging in spiritual pursuits while ignoring the impending environmental crisis. The phrase “No more chanting Hare Krishna while Rome burns” reflects the poet’s frustration with misplaced priorities and the need for a more grounded and relevant approach to spirituality and art.
The mention of “San Francisco’s burning” and “Mayakovsky’s Moscow’s burning” brings attention to the broader context of environmental and societal upheaval. These images depict the urgency of the global situation and the interconnectedness of human actions on a larger scale.
The phrase “the fossil-fuels of life” is a powerful metaphor that encompasses not only the burning of literal fossil fuels but also the unsustainable consumption and exploitation of natural resources that sustain life on Earth.
Lines 11-20 of ‘Populist Manifesto,‘ emphasize the urgent need for poets to address the environmental crisis and societal upheaval through their art. Ferlinghetti’s vivid imagery and metaphors draw attention to the destructive consequences of human actions and the call for poets to respond actively and meaningfully to the challenges of their time. The poem challenges poets to break free from their indifference and engage in a more socially and environmentally conscious form of poetry, making it a timeless and relevant call to action.
Night & the Horse approaches
no time now for fear & loathing,
In lines 21-30, Lawrence Ferlinghetti continues to deliver a potent message, challenging poets and artists to confront their role in the face of impending environmental and societal challenges.
The metaphor of “Night & the Horse approaches eating light, heat & power” conjures a sense of impending darkness and destruction. The image of the horse consuming light, heat, and power suggests the voracious consumption of natural resources by humanity, leading to environmental degradation.
The personification of the clouds with “trousers” is a whimsical yet thought-provoking image. It speaks to the transformation of the natural world due to human impact. The anthropomorphism serves as a reminder of the human responsibility for environmental changes and the need for poets to address these transformations in their work.
Ferlinghetti criticizes artists who retreat into self-absorption and indifference in the face of pressing issues. The phrase “No time now for the artist to hide above, beyond, behind the scenes” implores artists to abandon their insulated worlds and actively engage with the realities of the world.
The image of the artist “paring his fingernails” and “refining himself out of existence” symbolizes the danger of becoming detached from the world’s problems. The poet emphasizes that artists must not withdraw into their own self-absorption but instead confront and respond to the challenges around them.
Ferlinghetti denounces the indulgence of “little literary games,” “paranoias & hypochondrias,” and “fear & loathing.” These phrases criticize the preoccupation of artists with trivial or inward-looking concerns, urging them to focus on more significant and socially relevant themes in their poetry.
In essence, lines 21-30 of “Populist Manifesto” implore poets and artists to break free from self-absorption and confront the pressing issues of their time. The metaphorical images of the approaching darkness, the transformation of the natural world, and the need to abandon artistic detachment all contribute to the urgency of the poet’s call. Ferlinghetti challenges artists to use their creative voices to address real-world problems, making a powerful plea for a more socially engaged and responsible approach to art and poetry.
time now only for light & love.
which is bad for earth & Man.
In lines 31-40, the poet delves deeper into his message, advocating for a radical shift in the focus and purpose of poetry. He emphasizes the importance of embracing “light & love” in the creative process and condemns the detrimental impact of traditional poetic gatherings on the best minds of their generation.
The phrase “time now only for light & love” encapsulates the poet’s call for a more positive and compassionate approach to poetry. It urges poets to create works that inspire and uplift rather than perpetuate negativity and despair.
The mention of “the best minds of our generation destroyed by boredom at poetry readings” criticizes the alienating and stifling atmosphere of conventional poetry events. Ferlinghetti implies that the traditional ways of presenting poetry have failed to captivate and engage the audience, leading to a disconnection between poets and their readers.
The lines “Poetry isn’t a secret society, It isn’t a temple either” challenge the exclusivity and elitism often associated with poetry. The poet rejects the notion that poetry should be limited to a select few or be held in high reverence. Instead, he advocates for poetry to be accessible to all and approachable to everyone.
Ferlinghetti dismisses the efficacy of “secret words & chants” in modern poetry. By doing so, he rejects esoteric and cryptic language that only serves to alienate readers. He calls for a more straightforward and open form of expression.
The phrase “the hour of oming is over, the time for keening come” speaks to the need for a change in tone and subject matter in poetry. The reference to “oming,” which could be interpreted as a meditative sound or practice, represents the past contemplative and inward-looking approach to poetry. In contrast, “keening” suggests a more expressive and mournful tone, signaling the poet’s call for works that address the urgent issues of the world.
The lines “time for keening & rejoicing over the coming end of industrial civilization which is bad for earth & Man” align with the poem’s overarching theme of the impending environmental crisis. Ferlinghetti envisions poetry as a vehicle for both lamenting the harm done to the planet and celebrating the opportunity for positive change.
Lines 31-40 of this poem emphasize the need for a more accessible, positive, and socially relevant form of poetry. Ferlinghetti criticizes the exclusivity of traditional poetry events and advocates for a shift in poetic expression, encouraging poets to engage with real-world issues and inspire positive change through their work. The poet’s call for “light & love” and the rejection of esoteric language highlight his vision for poetry as a powerful force for connection, compassion, and societal transformation.
Time now to face outward
All you dead language poets and deconstructionists,
In lines 41-50 of ‘Populist Manifesto,‘ Lawrence Ferlinghetti continues to emphasize the need for a transformative shift in the approach to poetry. The lines serve as a call for poets to break free from their self-absorption and engage with the world around them in an open and inclusive manner.
The phrase “Time now to face outward in the full lotus position with eyes wide open” invokes the image of meditation and mindfulness. The poet encourages poets to be present and aware of the world’s realities, challenging them to observe and respond to the external environment actively.
The repetition of the phrase “Time now to open your mouths with a new open speech” reinforces the poet’s call for a more accessible and honest form of expression. It urges poets to use their voices to communicate openly and directly, rejecting the use of cryptic or esoteric language.
Ferlinghetti urges poets to go beyond their immediate circles and communicate with “all sentient beings.” This phrase extends the idea of inclusivity and interconnectedness, encouraging poets to address a broader audience and embrace a more universal perspective in their work.
The poet’s address to “All you Poets of the Cities’ hung in museums, including myself” confronts the trend of poets being trapped in the past and their own egos. He calls for a departure from the fixation on the past and a renewed focus on the present and future.
Ferlinghetti critiques the preoccupation of “poet’s poets writing poetry about poetry” and “dead language poets and deconstructionists.” He challenges poets to move beyond the insular and self-referential world of academic poetry and engage with relevant social issues.
In lines 41-50, Ferlinghetti’s message centers on the need for poets to adopt a more engaged, accessible, and socially relevant form of poetry. The poet’s call to face outward, communicate openly, and connect with all sentient beings reflects his vision of poetry as a powerful medium for fostering understanding, empathy, and social change. By urging poets to move beyond self-absorption and the confines of traditional poetic conventions, Ferlinghetti challenges them to embrace their role as agents of positive transformation in society.
All you poetry workshop poets
in the Siberias of America,
In lines 51-60, Ferlinghetti continues his critique of various poetic movements and styles. Through a series of pointed descriptions, he challenges poets associated with these movements to reassess their approach to poetry and embrace a more socially and environmentally conscious form of expression.
The phrase “All you poetry workshop poets in the boondock heart of America” addresses poets who are part of academic workshops in rural or isolated regions. Ferlinghetti suggests that some poets may be disconnected from the larger societal issues due to their insulated academic environments.
The mention of “All you house-broken Ezra Pounds” alludes to the influential poet Ezra Pound, whose controversial political views have been criticized. By using the term “house-broken,” Ferlinghetti implies that some poets may have been domesticated or tamed by conformity to conventional norms.
The description of “far-out freaked-out cut-up poets” references the experimental and avant-garde poetry movements of the time. While acknowledging the value of innovation, Ferlinghetti urges poets not to lose sight of meaningful content and relevance in their pursuit of new forms.
The phrase “All you pre-stressed Concrete poets” refers to a poetic movement that emphasizes visual and structural elements over traditional meaning. Ferlinghetti suggests that these poets should also focus on substance and engage with the world’s challenges.
The use of the term “cunnilingual poets” is a play on words, blending “cunnilingus” with “lingual” to evoke a sense of provocative wordplay. This likely refers to poets who prioritize sensuality and eroticism in their work. Ferlinghetti implies that while such themes have their place, they should not overshadow the broader social and environmental concerns.
The reference to “pay-toilet poets groaning with graffiti” critiques poets who commercialize their work or compromise their artistic integrity for financial gain. Ferlinghetti calls for a rejection of opportunistic practices and a return to more genuine and meaningful poetry.
The mention of “A-train swingers who never swing on birches” likely alludes to poets who claim to be adventurous or radical but never truly challenge the status quo. Ferlinghetti calls for poets to move beyond empty declarations and instead take meaningful action in their poetry.
The phrase “masters of the sawmill haiku in the Siberias of America” refers to poets who may excel in a specific form but do not engage with broader social issues. The image of “Siberias” suggests remote and disconnected regions, emphasizing the need for poets to be aware of the larger world.
Essentially, lines 51-60 of ‘Populist Manifesto‘ critique various poetic movements and styles, urging poets to move beyond self-indulgence and embrace a more socially conscious and relevant form of poetry. Ferlinghetti’s descriptions challenge poets to confront the limitations and pitfalls of their respective approaches and embrace a more engaged and transformative role as artists.
By calling for poetry that addresses real-world issues, he advocates for a meaningful and powerful poetic vision that resonates with readers and contributes to positive change in society.
All you eyeless unrealists,
All you Black Mountaineers of poetry,
In lines 61-70, Lawrence Ferlinghetti continues his critique of various poetic groups and movements. Through a series of pointed descriptions, he challenges these poets to reevaluate their role and responsibility as artists in the face of societal issues.
The term “eyeless unrealists” suggests poets who lack a clear vision of reality or who are detached from real-world concerns. Ferlinghetti calls on these poets to ground their work in the actualities of life and engage with the tangible issues of society.
The phrase “self-occulting supersurrealists” criticizes poets who retreat into their own esoteric worlds, delving into overly abstract and inaccessible realms. Ferlinghetti encourages them to step out of their self-imposed obscurity and communicate with a broader audience.
The description of “bedroom visionaries and closet agitpropagators” refers to poets who may have grand ideas or intentions but fail to act on them in a meaningful way. The poet urges them to move beyond mere contemplation and take a more active role in advocating for social change.
The term “Groucho Marxist poets” humorously critiques poets who may espouse radical ideas but fail to actively support the working class. The reference to Groucho Marx, a comedian known for his satire, implies a lack of genuine commitment to Marxist principles.
The phrase “leisure-class Comrades who lie around all day and talk about the workingclass proletariat” calls out poets who may claim to be allies of the working class but do not actively contribute to the cause. Ferlinghetti challenges them to move beyond mere lip service and actively engage in supporting the working class.
The mention of “Catholic anarchists of poetry” likely alludes to poets who may hold contradictory or paradoxical beliefs. Ferlinghetti encourages these poets to reconcile their ideals and embrace a more consistent and coherent poetic vision.
The term “Black Mountaineers of poetry” refers to poets associated with the Black Mountain School, an experimental poetic movement. While acknowledging the value of innovation, Ferlinghetti encourages these poets to ensure that their work remains relevant and accessible to a broader audience.
These lines 61-70 of ‘Populist Manifesto‘ challenge various poetic groups and movements to confront their contradictions, complacency, and detachment from real-world concerns. Ferlinghetti calls on poets to move beyond self-indulgence and ideological posturing and, instead, embrace a more socially engaged and responsible role as artists. By critiquing these poetic groups, he advocates for poetry that is grounded in reality, socially relevant, and capable of effecting positive change in the world.
All you Boston Brahmins and Bolinas bucolics,
with a sense of sweetness and sublimity,
In lines 71-80, the poet continues his scathing critique of various poetic groups and individuals. He contrasts these poets with the vision of poets who embrace a sense of authenticity, passion, and social engagement.
The mention of “Boston Brahmins and Bolinas bucolics” alludes to poets associated with prestigious literary circles and pastoral themes. Ferlinghetti suggests that these poets may be detached from the realities of the modern world and urges them to connect with more relevant and pressing issues.
The term “den mothers of poetry” likely refers to poets who act as gatekeepers or authorities in the poetry community. Ferlinghetti challenges them to be more open and inclusive, fostering a diverse and vibrant poetic landscape.
The description of “zen brothers of poetry” likely refers to poets who emphasize spiritual themes and meditative practices in their work. While acknowledging the value of inner contemplation, Ferlinghetti calls for a more active and outward engagement with societal concerns.
The phrase “suicide lovers of poetry” is a poignant metaphor that suggests poets who may dwell on despair and tragedy in their work. Ferlinghetti challenges these poets to embrace a more life-affirming and hopeful perspective in their poetry.
The term “hairy professors of poesie” humorously critiques academics who may overcomplicate or intellectualize poetry. Ferlinghetti encourages them to strip away unnecessary complexity and focus on the emotional and human elements of their work.
The mention of “poetry reviewers drinking the blood of the poet” calls out critics who may exploit or exploitatively dissect the creative efforts of poets. Ferlinghetti urges critics to approach poetry with empathy and appreciation rather than destructive analysis.
The term “Poetry Police” humorously refers to those who rigidly enforce poetic rules and conventions. Ferlinghetti challenges these enforcers to allow for a more diverse and experimental poetic landscape.
The poet asks, “Where are Whitman’s wild children,” invoking the legacy of Walt Whitman, who celebrated the untamed spirit of the human experience. Ferlinghetti laments the absence of poets who embody this same sense of freedom and authenticity.
The mention of “the great voices speaking out with a sense of sweetness and sublimity” highlights the importance of poets who speak with authenticity, sincerity, and a profound connection to the human experience. Ferlinghetti calls for poets who can convey both the beauty and the complexity of life in their work.
Lines 71-80 continue Ferlinghetti’s critique of various poetic groups and individuals while highlighting the need for authentic, socially engaged, and emotionally resonant poetry. The poet challenges poets to move beyond elitism, self-absorption, and artificiality, and instead, embrace a more genuine and transformative role as poets. By invoking the legacy of poets like Walt Whitman, Ferlinghetti advocates for poetry that is inclusive, passionate, and deeply connected to the human experience.
where the great new vision,
Clear your throat and speak up
In lines 81-90 of ‘Populist Manifesto,‘ Lawrence Ferlinghetti presents a powerful and visionary message to poets, urging them to embrace a new perspective and reconnect with the world. The lines emphasize the importance of poets as visionaries, prophets, and voices for the Earth and its inhabitants.
The phrases “the great new vision” and “the great world-view” call for poets to envision and convey a fresh perspective on the world. Ferlinghetti encourages poets to look beyond their individual experiences and embrace a broader understanding of the interconnectedness of all life.
The line “the high prophetic song of the immense earth and all that sings in it” highlights the poet’s belief in the profound wisdom of nature and the world. It suggests that poets should draw inspiration from the natural world and use their voices to articulate their messages and songs.
The phrase “our relation to it” underscores the need for poets to explore and understand their connection to the Earth and all living beings. It calls for poetry that fosters empathy, compassion, and a sense of responsibility toward the environment.
The poet’s address to “Poets, descend to the street of the world once more” echoes the earlier call for poets to break free from their isolation and engage with real-world issues. Ferlinghetti urges poets to be active participants in society and advocate for positive change through their art.
The phrases “open your minds & eyes with the old visual delight” and “clear your throat and speak up” emphasize the need for poets to maintain a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world. Ferlinghetti calls for poetry that engages the senses and conveys a deep appreciation for the beauty and complexity of life.
Lines 81-90 of ‘Populist Manifesto‘ implore poets to embrace their role as visionary voices for the Earth and humanity. Ferlinghetti envisions poetry as a means of promoting understanding, empathy, and positive action. The lines emphasize the importance of poets engaging with the world and using their art to inspire meaningful change. In this way, Ferlinghetti’s message serves as a passionate call for poets to rise to the occasion and use their craft to address the pressing challenges of their time.
Poetry is dead, long live poetry
a tuning fork in the inner ear
In lines 91-100 of “Populist Manifesto,” Lawrence Ferlinghetti continues his passionate call for revitalized and socially engaged poetry. The lines emphasize the transformative power of poetry and the poet’s responsibility to speak out and effect positive change.
The phrase “Poetry is dead, long live poetry” is paradoxical, suggesting that while traditional forms of poetry may have lost their relevance, poetry as a force of expression and change is still alive and essential. Ferlinghetti calls for a new kind of poetry that is bold and impactful.
The imagery of “terrible eyes and buffalo strength” conveys the idea of poetry possessing a fierce and unwavering power. It implies that poetry should be forceful, unyielding, and capable of breaking through barriers and conventions.
The line “Don’t wait for the Revolution or it’ll happen without you” is a call to action, urging poets not to be passive bystanders but instead to be active participants in shaping the world. Ferlinghetti warns that societal changes will occur, and poets should play a role in shaping those changes through their art.
The command to “Stop mumbling and speak out” is a direct call for poets to abandon indecision and reticence. Ferlinghetti encourages poets to be bold and outspoken in their work, confronting pressing issues with clarity and passion.
The phrase “new wide-open poetry” suggests poetry that is accessible, inclusive, and relevant to a broad audience. Ferlinghetti calls for poetry that engages with the realities of the world and fosters meaningful connections with readers.
The mention of a “new commonsensual ‘public surface’” implies the need for poetry to reach a shared understanding and speak to collective experiences. Ferlinghetti envisions poetry as a bridge between individual perspectives and a platform for fostering empathy and unity.
The phrases “other subjective levels” and “other subversive levels” highlight the multifaceted nature of poetry. Ferlinghetti advocates for poetry that explores various dimensions of the human experience, including personal and social aspects.
The metaphor of a “tuning fork in the inner ear” conveys the idea that poetry should resonate deeply within the reader’s soul, stirring emotions and provoking thought. Ferlinghetti emphasizes the importance of poetry as a means of inner reflection and self-discovery.
Lines 91-100 of the poem underscore Ferlinghetti’s call for powerful and transformative poetry that speaks out and connects with the world. The lines urge poets to embrace their role as agents of change, fostering a new era of accessible, socially engaged, and emotionally resonant poetry. Ferlinghetti’s message serves as a rallying cry for poets to use their craft to address real-world issues and inspire positive action.
to strike below the surface.
They haven’t put up the barricades, yet,
In lines 101-110 of this poem, Lawrence Ferlinghetti continues to articulate his vision of poetry as a powerful force that transcends individual experiences and carries the potential for societal transformation.
The phrase “to strike below the surface” suggests that poetry should delve beyond superficial appearances and address deeper truths and realities. Ferlinghetti calls for poetry that explores the underlying complexities of the human experience and challenges readers to think critically about the world.
The line “Of your own sweet Self still sing yet utter ‘the word en-masse’—” emphasizes the dual nature of poetry. It encourages poets to explore personal emotions and experiences while also speaking to universal themes that resonate with a broad audience.
The metaphor of “Poetry the common carrier for the transportation of the public to higher places than other wheels can carry it” highlights poetry’s role as a vessel for uplifting and enlightening the masses. Ferlinghetti envisions poetry as a means of elevating public consciousness and inspiring positive change.
The phrase “Poetry still falls from the skies into our streets still open” evokes an image of poetry as a gift or revelation from above. It suggests that poetry has a divine or inspired quality, and its impact is felt in the open spaces of society, unobstructed by barriers.
The mention of “They haven’t put up the barricades, yet” refers to the freedom of expression that still exists in society. Ferlinghetti suggests that poetry can thrive as long as it remains uninhibited by censorship or restrictions.
In essence, lines 101-110 of ‘Populist Manifesto,‘ reinforce Ferlinghetti’s message of the transformative power of poetry. He envisions poetry as a vehicle for exploring profound truths, connecting with the public, and inspiring positive change. The metaphor of poetry falling from the skies suggests a sense of wonder and awe, reflecting the poet’s belief in the innate beauty and significance of poetic expression. By acknowledging the freedom and openness of poetry in society, Ferlinghetti encourages poets to use their craft to effect a meaningful and positive impact on the world. The lines serve as a powerful call to action, urging poets to embrace their role as carriers of universal truths and voices for social change.
the streets still alive with faces,
Awake and sing in the open air.
In lines 110-117, the poet presents a poignant and optimistic message about the enduring beauty and potential for transformation in the world. These lines celebrate the resilience of humanity and the continuing presence of untapped creativity and inspiration.
The phrase “the streets still alive with faces” emphasizes the vibrancy of urban life and the diversity of human experiences. Despite the challenges and changes, people continue to populate the streets, each with their unique stories and perspectives.
The description of “lovely men & women still walking there” and “still lovely creatures everywhere” highlights the inherent beauty and value of every individual. Ferlinghetti’s use of “lovely” suggests a sense of admiration and appreciation for the human spirit and its capacity for love and connection.
The line “in the eyes of all the secret of all still buried there” conveys the idea that every person carries a hidden depth and complexity within them. It suggests that there is much more to be discovered and understood in each individual, and poetry can be a means of uncovering and sharing these hidden truths.
The mention of “Whitman’s wild children still sleeping there” alludes to the legacy of the poet Walt Whitman, who celebrated the unbridled spirit of humanity. Ferlinghetti suggests that this untamed and creative energy still resides within people, waiting to be awakened.
The phrase “Awake and sing in the open air” is a call to action and celebration. It urges individuals to break free from constraints, express themselves openly, and embrace their creative potential. Ferlinghetti envisions a world where people’s inner voices are set free, and their unique stories and experiences are shared with the world through poetry.
These lines 110-117 convey a message of hope and celebration of the human spirit. Ferlinghetti reminds readers of the beauty and potential that exist in every individual and the world around them. The lines inspire a sense of awe and appreciation for life’s wonders, encouraging poets to draw inspiration from the people they encounter and the world they inhabit. It is a call to use poetry as a means of celebrating the inherent beauty of life and giving voice to the diverse and multifaceted human experience.
The poem is so-titled because it presents a call to action for poets to embrace a more accessible, inclusive, and socially relevant form of poetry that speaks to and uplifts the public.
The poem triggers feelings of inspiration, empowerment, and a sense of urgency to break free from conventional poetic norms and engage with the world’s challenges through art.
If you have enjoyed this poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, you may also wish to explore these others:
- ‘Twas the old — road — through pain—’ by Emily Dickinson – describes a woman’s path from life to death and her entrance into Heaven.
- ‘A Renewal’ by James Merrill – describes the plight of a speaker who tries to end a relationship but, as soon as they successfully do so, our struck by a violent resurgence of the same love that they had lost.
- ‘A Long Journey’ by Musaemura Zimunya – is based on the changes that came to Rhodesia, a small country in southern Africa, after British colonial rule. The speaker explores the positive changes and the negative.