5. The Inspiration for a Poetry Collection: Coney Island
Many remember Coney Island for its various inventions: Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs invented the first hot dog. Kohr’s Frozen Custard brought the world a delicious treat called frozen custard. LaMarcus Adna Thompson brought the first explicit roller coaster in the world to Coney Island in 1888. However, others remember Coney Island — the epitome of summer — for Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind collection of poems.
These poems, created for jazz accompaniment, aimed to express Ferlinghetti’s pessimistic feelings about the world during the 1950s. He said they were a “circus of the soul.” Some of the most famous poems from the collection include “I Am Waiting” and “Junkman’s Obbligato.” At one point, the poet wrote, “I once started out to walk around the world but ended up in Brooklyn.” In another poem, he addressed the namesake destination with the line, “a joker in a straw / putting a stickpin in his peppermint tie / and looking just like he had nowhere to go / but coney island.”