Ferlinghetti’s lit.quake

The first year our festival debuted under the name Litquake was 2002. We invited Lawrence Ferlinghetti to participate in a reading. He showed up two hours late, after some car trouble, and read the following poem.


by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

So we’re having a quake
We’re going to have a literary quaking
It’s announced in the smallest papers
free for the taking
It’s flying on flyers all over town
It’s happening here today
in downtown San Francisco
in the town that’s famous for earthquakes
and ready for them every way
It’s a quake that’s been promised
And all the best writers will be quaking or shaking
So get ready to tremble get ready to shake
The hour has come
The atomic clock is down to one

And I am wondering
Who will be really shook up
Who and what will really be shook
Who will be quaking in their boots
Will it shake the country to its roots
Will it crack the marble skies
and will it have a ripple effect
with Lit.revolutions and Lit.orgasms
all around the world
Will it shred the fabric of society
And cause inebriation or sobriety
Will it get you high or low
Will you go with the flow
Will it make lovers run for cover
Will it shake up marriages in fancy carriages
Will it let loose the dogs of war
or liberate the doves of peace
Will it leave a scorched earth
Or business-as-usual on the home hearth
Will it open up a huge hole
Into which will tumble

And where will be the epicenter of this quake
And what will be the reading on the Richter scale
Will there be lots of real estate for sale
What towers and powers will come tumbling down
Will it shake down the banks
Will it hit the ranks
of both the good and the bad
the glad and the sad
Will it derail tanks and war
or derail peace and more
or bring down the war machine
or other things obscene
Will it burn up the Bush
and will the White House fall
Will it change anything at all
Will it open up a great chasm in which we’ll see
The huge spiritual void in America

Or will it move your heart and soul;
Will it shake your mind
Will it wake up the humanity
Of all mankind?


Reprinted with permission