60 Years of the Pocket Poets Series

HowlTrial08City Lights Publishers turns 60 in 2015. As you may have seen, we’ve been recapping our publication history with spotlights on books, authors, and some of our series. We remembered Rex Ray, fine artist and cover designer for City Lights who passed away this year.

We’re also celebrating our 60th anniversary with several new books to commemorate this milestone, a press started by Lawrence Ferlinghetti in 1955: at the time a largely unknown poet and bookseller. The first book in the City Lights canon was his first book, Pictures of the Gone World, Pocket Poets #1. Soon after was #2, translations from the Spanish by Kenneth Rexroth: Thirty Spanish Poems of Love and Exile; and #3 which was Poems of Humor and Protest by Kenneth Patchen. But of course it was the success and scandal of #4, Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg that truly put City Lights Publishers on the map. From then on, the Pocket Poets Series continued throughout the twists and turns of our history, with the most recent volume being #60, David Meltzer‘s When I Was a Poet, from 2011.

1 pictures60 when i was a poet

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Pocket Poets Series, City Lights is publishing the City Lights Pocket Poets Anthology: 60th Anniversary Edition this June, edited by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. This collection features poems handpicked by Ferlinghetti from each of the 60 volumes of the Pocket Poets Series, in a hardbound format. It features the work of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Andrei Voznesensky, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Julio Cort├ízar, Frank O’Hara, Marie Ponsot, Denise Levertov, Diane di Prima, Robert Duncan, Philip Lamantia, Malcolm Lowry, and many more of the Pocket Poets Series’ innovative, influential, and often ground-breaking American and international poets.


Starting tomorrow, May 1st, we’ll be spotlighting each of the 60 volumes of the Pocket Poets Series in 60 consecutive days, all the way through the month of June on our Facebook and Twitter accounts. And, because of the Internet, we’ll use the hashtag #PocketPoets. We encourage you to share your Pocket Poets collections on our social pages using the hashtag. Seeing as there are, depending on the volume, several iterations and cover designs throughout the various editions and printings, there exists a variety of Pocket Poets collections.

igreetyou_cover01By the end of June, we’ll have already released our other anniversary publication, I Greet You at the Beginning of a Great Career: The Selected Correspondence of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg, 1955-1997. The letters book will feature never-before-published personal letters between two of the twentieth century’s most influential literary rebels. Their correspondence documents a time when both were rising to the peak of their notoriety and international fame, traveling, writing, publishing and performing their poetry during a period of unprecedented social and cultural experimentation and upheaval. This collection is edited by Beat scholar Bill Morgan, and will feature never-before-seen facsimiles of some of the letters as well as several photographs of Allen and Lawrence throughout their long friendship.

Be on the lookout this Fall for more 60th Anniversary publications from City Lights:

Pictures of the Gone World: 60th Anniversary Edition by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Hiparama of the Classics by Lord Buckley

Shock Treatment: 25th Anniversary Edition by Karen Finley


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