Publisher Spotlight: City Lights


National Poetry Month is in full swing, and it wouldn’t be a proper celebration at Publisher’s Spotlight without recognizing the revolutionary publisher City Lights. Though the San Francisco indie continues to produce provocative fiction, children’s titles (such as Rad American Women A-Z), travel writing, essay collections, literature in translation, and radical works from many other genres, poetry continues to be a main staple of City Lights’ publishing arm.

City Lights’ lyrical history is hardly a secret. In fact, they’re famous for it. The press established roots with their Pocket Poets Series in the early 50s, and soon after became synonymous with the Beat movement when the fourth book in the series—Allen Ginsberg’s now-iconic Howl and Other Poems—gained national attention. Over half a century later, the press remains a poetry tastemaker—a trusted champion of progressive perspectives in poetics.

Save Twilight

We’re lucky that City Lights chose to extend their already impressive poetry publication range to include international voices. One of my favorite characteristics of the press is that, while they release works by global poets who are familiar to English-reading audiences, such as Pablo Neruda, they are also unfailing advocates of English-language debuts. One such title is Save Twilight: Selected Poems, written by Argentinian novelist and UNESCO translator Julio Cortazar and translated by Stephen Kessler. This beautifully curated collection appears in English for the first time as part of the Pocket Poets Series (#53), and showcases City Lights’ commitment to supporting poetry never before introduced to English readers. In keeping with that commitment, City Lights has even made available a free PDF of Save Twilight’s Table of Contents, Preface (written by translator Stephen Kessler), and the first two poems. Click here to learn more.

Find out about City Lights’ history by clicking here. A selection from their “About Us” page is excerpted below.

“For over fifty years, City Lights has been a champion of progressive thinking, fighting against the forces of conservatism and censorship. We are committed to publishing works of social responsibility, and to maintaining a tradition of bringing renegade literature from other parts of the world into English. In our function of discovery, we will continue to publish cutting-edge contemporary literature and brilliant new non-fiction.”

Visiting San Francisco? Be sure to stop by City Lights Bookstore, the brick-and-mortar indie landmark that opened in 1953. To peruse forthcoming titles and recent releases, check out the City Lights catalog.

By Chelsey Slattum

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