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Thu Jan 31, 2013, 10:10 AM

Time of Useful Consciousness

from truthdig:

Time of Useful Consciousness

Posted on Jan 29, 2013
By Lisa Pasold

“Time of Useful Consciousness”
A book by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Why write poetry in America today? So many reasons—to examine, to rant, to bear witness, to demand and seize the moment, to shout, to revel. The drive to communicate, to emulate Walt Whitman and hear the sound of America singing, has always enlivened the best of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s work. Ferlinghetti is now 93 years old, and he’s still listening, shouting and reveling in his new book, “Time of Useful Consciousness,” a lilting, imperfect series of poetic considerations, looping through the history of America.

Ferlinghetti has published more than 30 books of poetry, but he’s best known for his first book, “A Coney Island of the Mind,” which came out in 1958 and has since sold more than a million copies worldwide. Since then, Ferlinghetti has published innumerable poems, prose and essays, turned to painting—the cover of “Time of Useful Consciousness” is one of his pieces—and worked tirelessly to promote culture, poetry and the spoken word in San Francisco, largely through City Lights Bookstore, which he co-founded in 1953. He shows no sign of slowing down. This new book may not be his strongest, but its best moments reveal a mind as alert and alive as ever.

Ferlinghetti has long stood with protest poets and writers of engagement. He was arrested for publishing Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” in 1957. “Only the dead are disengaged,” he wrote half a century ago, his words as relevant today as then, a firm kick in the pants to any artist who remains silent against oppression.

Back then, Ferlinghetti argued that “. . . the wiggly nihilism of the Beat hipster, if carried to its natural conclusion, actually means the death of the creative artist himself. While the ‘non-commitment’ of the artist is itself a suicidal and deluded variation of nihilism.” “Time of Useful Consciousness” is a fresh missive from an elderly Beat who has always refused to sit down. The title, “Time of Useful Consciousness” (or TUC), refers to the elapsed time from the interruption of normal oxygen levels until an individual can no longer function usefully or take corrective action. TUC is not the time to total unconsciousness, but rather that moment when we can still react, still fight. ....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/arts_culture/item/time_of_useful_consciousness_20130129/

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