Lawrence Ferlinghetti, San Francisco poet and owner of City Lights bookstore and publishing, launched his Pocket Poets series of small, affordable paperbacks in August 1955. He "borrowed" the distinctive white on black design of the series from a 1945 book from Oregon’s Untide Press, Kenneth Patchen’s An Astonished Eye Looks Out of the Air. The Pocket Poets series quickly became an essential resource for poets of the Beat Generation and the San Francisco Renaissance to get their works published, but Ferlinghetti also printed translations of foreign poets and work by Americans outside the Beat movement, assembling a who’s who of 20th century avant-garde poetry.

The little black and white books were the first exposure of many to avant-garde and Beat poetry. (See "A Book of Verse" from Ed SandersTales of Beatnik Glory for a particularly moving account.) The most influential was, of course, number 4: the first publication of Allen Ginsberg’s literary milestone "Howl". Publishing "Howl" landed Ferlinghetti in legal hot water; he was charged with obscenity in 1957. With the help of the ACLU, he fought off the charges in a landmark ruling for freedom of speech.

City Lights Pocket Poets – a checklist (Collect them all!)

1 – Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Pictures of a Gone World , August 1955
2 – Kenneth Rexroth(translator), Thirty Spanish Poems of Love and Exile, 1956
3 – Kenneth Patchen, Poems of Humor and Protest
4 – Allen Ginsberg, Howl and Other Poems , 1956
5 – Marie Ponsot, True Minds , 1956
6 – Denise Levertov, Here and Now , 1957
7 – William Carlos Williams, Kora in Hell : Improvisations
8 – Gregory Corso, Gasoline/Vestal Lady on Brattle , 1958
9 – Jacques Prevert, Paroles
10 – Robert Duncan, Selected Poems
11 – Jerome Rothenberg(translator), New Young German Poets
12 – Nicanor Parra, Anti-Poems
13 – Kenneth Patchen, Love Poems , 1960
14 – Allen Ginsberg, Kaddish and other poems
15 – Robert Nichols, Slow Newsreel of Man Riding Train
16 – Anslem Hollo(translator), Red Cats
17 – Malcolm Lowry, Selected Poems , 1962
18 – Allen Ginsberg, Reality Sandwiches , 1963
19 – Frank O'Hara, Lunch Poems , 1964
20 – Philip Lamantia, Selected Poems 1943-1966 , 1967
21 – Bob Kaufman, Golden Sardine
22 – Janine Pommy-Vega, Poems to Fernando , 1968
23 – Allen Ginsberg, Planet News , 1968
24 – Charles Upton, Panic Grass , 1968
25 – Pablo Picasso, Hunk of Skin , 1968
26 – Robert Bly, The Teeth-Mother Naked At Last
27 – Diane DiPrima, Revolutionary Letters , 1971
28 – Jack Kerouac, Scattered Poems , 1971
29 – Andrei Voznesensky, Dogalypse
30 – Allen Ginsberg, The Fall of America
31 – Pete Winslow, A Daisy in the Memory of a Shark
32 – Harold Norse, Hotel Nirvana
33 – Anne Waldman, Fast Speaking Woman
34 – Jack Hirschmann, Lyripol
35 – Allen Ginsberg, Mind Breaths
36 – Stefan Brecht, Poems
37 – Peter Orlovsky, Clean Asshole Poems & Smiling Vegetable Songs , 1978
38 – Antler, Factory
39 – Philip Lamantia, Becoming Visible , 1981
40 – Allen Ginsberg, Plutonian Ode 1977-1980 , 1982
41 – Pier Paolo Pasolini, Roman Poems
42 – Scott Rollins(editor), Nine Dutch Poets
43 – Ernesto Cardenal, From Nicaragua With Love
44 – Antonio Porta, Kisses From Another Dream
45 – Adam Conford, Animations
46 – La Loca, Adventures on the Isle of Adolescence
47 – Vladimir Mayakovsky, Listen!
48 – Jack Kerouac, Poems all Sizes , 1992
49 – Daisy Zamora, Riverbed of Memory
50 – Rosario Murillo, Angel in the Deluge
51 – Jack Kerouac, The Scripture of the Golden Eternity
52 – Alberto Blanco, Dawn of the Senses

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