It's been good to see them bringing this cultural literacy to more art-related titles of late, including 2007's All Over Coffee by Paul Madonna and this year's Shoot an Iraqi: Art, Life and Resistance Under the Gun by Wafaa Bilal and Kari Lydersen, a much-needed evaluation of Bilal's controversial project.
One of the poems in that heart-close Porta volume is "You Continue to Ask What Silence Is." If poetry comes from silence, and politics from the space between dreams and reality, then City Lights knows what silence is, and this is why its authors scream so sweetly. A Lifetime Achievement award is as much a hymn to co-owner Ferlinghetti's life and early organizational skills as to what City Lights has become. Though he has technically passed over the editorial reins, Ferlinghetti remains involved in the press and also, in terms of his own writing, intentionally uninvolved: he has kept New Directions, over on the other coast, as the publisher of his own writing, ensuring that in an age of celebrity and numbness, City Lights is anything but a vanity press.