Ferlinghetti reading their bestseller

Ferlinghetti reading their bestseller

In 1955 Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919 – ) launched the City Lights’ Pocket Poets Series. This year it celebrates with a 60th Anniversary edition of The City Lights Pocket Poets Anthology. The 60th volume in the series was published in 2011. There’s a list of the books in the series at Wikipedia.


The series was modeled closely on the French Poèts d’aujourd’hui series, which was founded in 1944 by Pierre Seghers (1906 – 1987), also a poet. Poètes d’aujourd’hui, which like The Pocket Poets Series focussed on 20th century and contemporary poetry, came to an end in 1994 with #260. The company had been sold to Editions Robert Laffont in 1969. Laffont was subsequently acquired by Presses de la Cité who were in turn bought by the group Editis, now owned by Planeta. Wikipédia gives a listing of all the volumes.

The Poètes d’aujourd’hui books are small almost square paperback books, 13.5 x 15.5cm (about 5¼” x 6⅛”); The Pocket Poets Series books are small almost square paperback books, 4⅞” x 6.25″. The first Pocket Poets books were wire stitched “pamphlets” but now they are conventional perfect-bound paperbacks. 500 copies of the first volumes were printed by letterpress. The making of the series was Howl and other poems by Allen Ginsberg. When this was prosecuted for obscenity, it naturally became a bestseller.

The first book to be published in The Pocket Poets Series was by the publisher himself, Lawrence Ferlinghetti: Pictures of a gone world. Seghers also included a volume of his poetry in the Poètes d’aujourd’hui sees, but not till #164, published in 1967.

The original story about this came from Book Patrol on 8 May.


Don’t forget City Lights Bookstore, co-founded by Ferlinghetti, still going strong as an independent bookseller in San Francisco at 261 Columbus Avenue at Broadway. Their website is here.