US poet, publisher and activist Lawrence Ferlinghetti, one of the leading figures of the beat movement, has died at the age of 101.
Ferlinghetti printed novels and poems by the likes of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William S Burroughs.
He died on Monday in San Francisco, according to The City Lights bookshop, which he founded in 1953.
“His curiosity was unbounded and his enthusiasm was infectious, and we will miss him greatly,” a statement said.
City Lights said his decision to open the first all-paperback bookstore in the US “was instrumental in democratising American literature” and helped jumpstart “a movement to make diverse and inexpensive quality books widely available”.
The statement added: “For over 60 years, those of us who have worked with him at City Lights have been inspired by his knowledge and love of literature, his courage in defence of the right to freedom of expression, and his vital role as an American cultural ambassador.”
Following the news of his death on Tuesday, fans gathered outside his book shop for an impromptu vigil.
Born in New York in 1919, Ferlinghetti moved to the west coast in 1951 and his shop soon acted as hub for progressive politics and a magnet for the bohemian beat generation.
Rejecting mainstream conservative values, economic materialism and war, they instead focused on spirituality, the human condition and sexual liberation, as well as the use of psychedelic drugs. As a result, the writers and the shop itself remain popular among many thrill-seeking young people.
Ferlinghetti’s best known work was his first collection of poems, 1958’s A Coney Island Of The Mind, which was written for a jazz accompaniment. But his most famous release was Ginsberg’s controversial epic poem Howl, which is considered by many to be one of the great works of American literature.The poem’s references to drugs and gay and straight sex led to a high-profile trial in 1957, which saw Ferlinghetti and City Lights manager Shigeyoshi Murao charged with disseminating obscene literature. (BBC)