When You Get Them Laughing…

When You Get Them Laughing…

The last Tuesday in August, I was sitting at a sidewalk cafe in the neighborhood enjoying lunch with Ike and reading Coney Island of the Mind, I thought, for escape, when I read again “I Am Waiting.” Two days earlier I had written about the extended diagnostic testing period we have just entered and considered it likely that no one enters joyously such a long period of waiting (see “Waiting II”). Ferlinghetti’s poem had been lying in wait. With it came the best sort of serious-funny surprise and a connection to so much beyond the two of us.Click here for “I Am Waiting” Excerpted here is a 2002 PBS Online NewsHour interview with the poet.ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: In 1958, Ferlinghetti published “A Coney Island of the Mind,” a collection of his poems that has sold so many copies, it has apparently made him America’s best-selling poet of the 20th century. One of the best-known poems is “I Am Waiting.”LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI: This poem is 45 years old, but I’m still waiting for some of the things in his poem. The end of the poem: “I am waiting to get some intimations of immortality by recollecting my early childhood, and I am waiting for the green mornings to come again, youth’s dumb green fields come back again, and I am waiting for some strains of unpremeditated art to shake my typewriter, and I am waiting to write the great indelible poem, and I am waiting for the last, long, careless rapture, and I am perpetually waiting for the fleeing lovers on the Grecian urn to catch each other up at last and embrace, and I am awaiting, perpetually and forever, a renaissance of wonder.”ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The language here is deceptively simple. Ferlinghetti works hard in writing and refining his poems, but he always uses a simple style that is easy to understand.LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI: Well, I always feel a poem has to have a public surface; in other words, a surface that anyone can get without any literary education. In other words, it has to have a common-sensual surface that anyone can get, and you have to hold people’s attention, which is where the comic part comes in, and then, when you get them laughing, you can zap them. (Laughter)Again, Poetry arrived/in search of me…Pablo Neruda.