Ferlinghetti Turns Down Hungarian Poetry Prize

The San Francisco-based City Lights Booksellers and Publishers announced last week that its founder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who had been selected as the recipient of the inaugural Pannonius Prize, would decline the award.

The prize, which was announced in September, is funded by the Hungarian government and the Hungarian chapter of PEN International, and offers an award of 50,000 euros.

In a press release, City Lights stated: “While honored to be chosen and recognized, Lawrence Ferlinghetti has been a resolute supporter of freedom of expression his entire life. Given that the Hungarian government is widely accused of officially and unofficially stifling free speech and civil liberties, Ferlinghetti has decided to decline the award.”

On the same day that City Lights released their statement, the MFA program in writing at the University of San Francisco announced the inaugural Lawrence Ferlinghetti Poetry Fellowship. Established in honor of the poet, activist, and City Lights founder, the biennial fellowship—which provides full tuition funding to the MFA program—will be given to a poet “whose work embodies a concern for social justice and freedom of expression, interpreted in the broadest possible way.”

Ferlinghetti, whose most recent book is Americus, Book 1 (New Directions, 2005), is a longtime proponent of the “wide-open poetry” movement; he published Allen Ginsberg’s Howl & Other Poems in 1956, and was subsequently arrested, tried, and eventually acquitted on obscenity charges in what became a historic first amendment case. Poet D. A. Powell, a professor of poetry at the University of San Francisco, said in a university press release, “The Howl trial changed the culture of American poetry overnight and paved the way for a more open, expansive poetics—for poetry that confronted American hypocrisies and political institutions, willing to put its proverbial heart on the line.” 

To learn more about the life and work of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, visit the City Lights website. For more information and complete application guidelines for the Lawrence Ferlinghetti Poetry Fellowship, visit the University of San Francisco MFA program website.