The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday September 25th

Ferlinghetti Exhibit Highlights Elements of Beat Generation

The exhibit, titled "Visions from the Underground: Lawrence Ferlinghetti, City Lights Books, and Alternative Publishing in America," opened at 5 p.m. Tuesday and will remain open through March.

Chronologically organized photographs, poems and books from Ferlinghetti, a UNC alumnus, and other beat writers highlight the landmark publications of the beat movement.

These publications included Allen Ginsberg's "Howl," a poem that marked the beginning of the beat movement and was surrounded by controversy when first published by City Lights Books. Ferlinghetti's own standout work, "A Coney Island of the Mind," which sold more than 1 million copies, is also on display.

The most recent work in the exhibit is Ferlinghetti's "History of the Airplane." UNC graduate student Jill Katte, who is the exhibit's curator, said, "The poem was written in response to the September 11 attacks, from Lawrence Ferlinghetti, dedicated to UNC," she said. Bill Morgan, bibliographer and friend of both Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg, said Ferlinghetti attended UNC because of his admiration for Thomas Wolfe, a famous UNC alumnus.

"Lawrence was steeped in the writing of Thomas Wolfe, the avant-garde writing of that time," Morgan said.

After scrawling "For UNC -- Lawrence Ferlinghetti" on the bottom, he sent the poem to Charles McNamara, curator of the Wilson Rare Book Collection, and Katte.

In the center of the exhibit are photographs of Ferlinghetti at UNC, including one of him pictured in front of Howell Hall, providing a connection for the University community.

Half of the extensive collection of books, poems and photographs was given to McNamara by Morgan.

After the opening of the exhibit, Morgan spoke about the beat generation and presented a timeline of the beat movement using a slide show of Ginsberg's photographs.

Morgan said that although beat writers are often grouped together in the so-called beat generation, the differences between the authors' styles, views, and backgrounds show that there is no real beat generation.

Morgan recognized, however, spirituality and Buddhist influence as a unifying agent for the beat writers.

"(The beat movement) really was a spiritual movement, as odd as it sounds. ... They were looking for something," Morgan said.

McNamara said Morgan's speech created a context for people to connect with the exhibit and beat ideas. McNamara said he thinks that because the once avant-garde ideas of beat writers have been integrated into contemporary society, the exhibit has particular interest for viewers.

"It's interesting that what they did was so controversial then," he said. "Today, they've become a part of American history."

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at artsdesk@unc.edu.

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