Recipe For Happiness

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Recipe For Happiness
Khaborovsk Or Anyplace
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

One grand boulevard with trees
with one grand cafe in sun
with strong black coffee in very small cups.

One not necessarily very beautiful
man or woman who loves you.

One fine day.

I wonder about the meaning of the last line. What do you think: Is today a very fine day indeed? Or is Ferlinghetti talking about one fine day in the future when he might experience this idyllic café scene? Is he remembering a day when he was truly happy? Or is he being just slightly sarcastic about this “quick and easy” recipe for happiness? I think it’s completely up to you.

I hadn’t quite made up my mind about what the line meant when I read it for this recording, and you can tell, can’t you? Change the meaning of the line and poem, and your intonation will change, too. So come on, you can do better: First decide what the line means to you, and then read the poem out loud. If you have the means of recording it, please do, and send me the link, ok?


6 Responses

  1. I think they are in Saint Germain des prés ! to me the poet writes about his really fine day he had. He wrote the poem to fix the beautiful moment. It’s like a (big) haïku.

  2. Lovely, Alice! There’s nothing quite like listening to people jabbering and dishes clattering and traffic whizzing by and heels clacking and newspapers rustling as the sun shines on your hair and you hide behind your sunglasses, feeling quite the __________ (e.g. Parisienne).
    Insert the urban citizenship of your choice!

  3. I see it as a recipe – the title.
    It could be the pst or the present and the future
    give him a boulevard, with trees, and a cafe and a coffee and someone who loves you and presto hey you have one fine day.
    Might work for others too.
    And there’s the question – what makes one fine day for you?

  4. Nice! My first image was also – The Champs Elysée – and that atmosphere in all the different seasons: sometimes hazy, other times bright and sunny and maybe even chilly, frosty. And one can well imagine it in the different times of day and seasons.
    We could have our students describe or maybe draw their images.
    And I like Chris’s final question …
    Good lesson in the planning!

  5. Chris, you’re right, of course. I read it out during those weeks of rain that have caused all of the flooding … and pulled it out of the backend on the first day you could actually sit outside such a café without a coat here.
    Actually, here in Munich people sit outdoors in almost any weather, don’t they, Joan? Those cozy fleece blankets you find outside all the trendy places around the universities… I couldn’t believe it when I first saw them. “Won’t someone steal them?” But no, and they’re very pleasant indeed. So add an inessential “and a fleece blanket” to the recipe for 8 months out of the 12.
    Just realized that we could be inside the café, looking out of the window.
    And that the café is in sun, not we.
    A splendid, evocative poem.

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