Wednesday, April 9, 2008

"The World is a Beautiful Place" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Now that I have two happy, inspirational, and/ or romantic poems out of the way, here is another to help balance the sweetness and light. Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “The World is a Beautiful Place” is perhaps one of the most honest poems I have ever encountered. Ferlinghetti, who co-founded the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, points out something that most people never think about: even when things are going perfectly well for one person, someone else is undoubtedly suffering. It also underscores the idea of things can change (usually for the worse) in an instant.

What is particularly striking is Ferlinghetti’s juxtaposition of images. The ending litany of all the things that the world is the best place for almost makes you forget about the poem’s darker undertones. Reading the poem out loud, the rhythm and cadence changes and becomes more melodic, at least until “the smiling mortician” comes in at the very end.

So what do you think? Is it horribly pessimistic? Is it a realistic depiction of life? Should we just take a Prozac and get over it?

ETA (on September 11, 2008): I decided to revisit the poem in a new post.

ETA (on March 21, 2009): I posted another short discussion on this poem in conjunction to Browning's "Pippa Passes."


the_ruth said...

I love this poem - have done ever since I was a child and we had an LP of Ferlinghetti reciting his poems. I find something deeply comforting about this kind of realism!

I was just looking it up because I'm going to read it at my friend's mum's funeral - it just exactly fits with her outlook on life so it is a gift to her and I hope she enjoys it!