Dog, by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Recent Posts

Die Grünen hybrider Kongress 2021

Hybrid courses

In the summer of 2021, I had the pleasure of attending a hybrid congress in Berlin: Die Grünen were kicking off their election campaign. The

Read More »


It’s the end of summer, we’re back home from long days in the sun and on the water, and it’s back to classes and many

Read More »

Talk at BESIG 2021 for Cornelsen

Managing your hybrid course with Cornelsen’s Basis for Business Summary This 30-minute talk aimed to give Business English trainers an overview of lessons learned in

Read More »

The dog trots freely in the street
and sees reality
and the things he sees
are bigger than himself
and the things he sees
are his reality
Drunks in doorways
Moons on trees
The dog trots freely thru the street
and the things he sees
are smaller than himself
Fish on newsprint
Ants in holes
Chickens in Chinatown windows
their heads a block away
The dog trots freely in the street
and the things he smells
smell something like himself
The dog trots freely in the street
past puddles and babies
cats and cigars
poolrooms and policemen
He doesn’t hate cops
He merely has no use for them
and he goes past them
and past the dead cows hung up whole
in front of the San Francisco Meat Market
He would rather eat a tender cow
than a tough policeman
though either might do
And he goes past the Romeo Ravioli Factory
and past Coit’s Tower
and past Congressman Doyle
He’s afraid of Coit’s Tower
but he’s not afraid of Congressman Doyle
although what he hears is very discouraging
very depressing
very absurd
to a sad young dog like himself
to a seriously dog like himself
But he has his own free world to live in
His own fleas to eat
He will not be muzzled
Congressman Doyle is just another
fire hydrant
to him
The dog trots freely in the street
and has his own dog’s life to live
and to think about
and to reflect upon
touching and tasting and testing everything
investigating everything
without benefit of perjury
a real realist
with a real tale to tell
and a real tail to tell it with
a real live
democratic dog
engaged in real
free enterprise
with something to say
about ontology
something to say
about reality
and how to see it
and how to hear it
with his head cocked sideways
at streetcorners
as if he is just about to have
his picture taken
for Victor Records
listening for
His Master’s Voice
and looking
like a living questionmark
into the
great gramaphone
of puzzling existence
with its wondrous hollow horn
which always seems
just about to spout forth
some Victorious answer
to everything

Stolen from Poetry Foundation

About this poem:

We read this poem at school, and I loved it from the first moment on. It reminded me of a gorgeous bronze by Giacometti of a dog with a sagging back.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti (born 1919) is an American Beat poet and the co-founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers. He is best known for A Coney Island of the Mind (New York, 1958), a collection of poems translated into nine languages. In 1953, Ferlinghetti and Martin founded City Lights Bookstore, the first all-paperbound bookshop in the country, and he launched the publishing wing of City Lights and published Beat Generation writers, including Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. The book was seized in 1956 by the San Francisco police, and Ferlinghetti and the bookstore manager who had sold the book to the police were arrested on obscenity charges. After a long trial, Howl was found to be not obscene and Ferlinghetti was aquitted in October 1957. The landmark First Amendment case established a key legal precedent for the publication of other controversial literary work with redeeming social importance.

I remembered this poem after an online discussion with Heike and Christian about Charlotte Link’s Roche’s “Feuchtgebiete” (which I don’t like) and one of their friends mentioned Bukowski, whom I mixed up with Bulgakov, whose book “Heart of a Dog” I love, which again reminded me that any down to earth description of our human weaknesses benefits from the absurd, surreal, imaginative (which Charlotte Link Roche lacks, I feel). … But then I realized my error and seem to remember that Bukowski is just as down and dirty as Charlotte Link Roche is, but still thinking he’s cool. Sheeeesh. So now that I’ve gone off on a tangent to no place and have managed to enjoyably waste half of the morning – make that afternoon – , I’m sitting here wondering:

Do we forgive men writing up their physical excesses, and not women? Are men who write about their grunts creating art, while women create, um, non-art?

So this post is dedicated to Heike and Christian.


8 Responses

  1. Now there’s a coincidence! I have on my lap a copy (signed!) of his collection San Francisco Poems and if i turn to page 56 the fifth sentence is –
    “The top of Angel island showing through fog funneled through Golden Gate.”
    And it’s foggy here today!
    Happy thanksgiving for yesterday.
    There’s a poem in the collection called Challenges to young poets – originally read publicly in 2001.
    It ends “Be committed to something outside yourself.
    Be militant about it.
    Or ecstatic.
    To be a poet at sixteen is to be sixteen, to be a poet at 40 is to be a poet. Be both.
    Wake up and pee, the world’s on fire.
    Have a nice day.”

    You can see the whole poem here –

    I think City Lights has to be one of THE best bookshops in the world, it is of course so much more than just a bookshop.
    My personal account lies here (if i may be so bold).

  2. Wow!
    “Challenges To Young Poets” really nails it. So beautiful. Wise old man.
    Chris, I’ve just got to go to San Fransisco. (No, not Los Angeles.)

  3. Oops, natürlich (rot anlauf)! Schon wieder ein Zufall, aus Wikipedia: “Als aktive Tierschützerin engagiert (Charlotte Link) sich für PETA und die Straßenhunde der Türkei und Spaniens.” 😉

    Aus dem wunderbaren Gedicht von Ferlinghetti:
    “Think long thoughts in short sentences.”
    That could be my motto.
    Aber erstmal lange Gedanken denken 😉 !

  4. Other Ferlinghetti advice that is lighting up my Friday evening:

    “Read between the lines of human discourse.
    Avoid the provincial, go for the universal.
    Think subjectively, write objectively.

    Associate with thinking poets. They’re hard to find.

    Don’t be so open-minded that your brains fall out.”

    Now that’s what I call a manifesto.

  5. As you say, a great manifesto.
    and as you say you have to go to San Francisco (i WAS confused by the LA reference) and i find it amazing that an American hasn’t been there – though i understand it’s a huge country.
    I have been lucky to visit more than once but it’s a place my soul yearns for.
    Thanks for checking out my San Francisco blog – it was my first attempt – i had forgotten but when i was there last time i got to see Mr Ferlinghetti on stage, i wrote about it for Letter K.
    And coincidentally, the poem Dog is in my little book just before Challenges!

    (Anne is editing in this link to Chris’ blogpost on seeing Ferlinghetti:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *