Vincent Ferrini was born in Saugus, Massachusetts, June 24, 1913. His father John, originally from Raia, had emigrated some years before to the States to work in the shoe district of Lynn, Massachusetts. He accompanied a group of anarchists Raianesi: people who Vincent’s father called Christian anarchists. In the early decades of the twentieth century, Lynn had a large community of anarchists and Italians from Abruzzo; the famous Nicola Sacco was a resident of Lynn. While Raianese Umberto Postiglione, described as “an anarchist of song” by Ferrini, the poet turned to North and South America to call for fervent anarchist political action and to apply the educational principles of Tagore.
Ferrini graduated from Lynn Classical School, but he was unable to continue study at the College due to finances. Nevertheless, he self-taught at the Lynn Public Library, devouring in particular texts of poetry, sociology and policy. He wanted to understand the rationalization of poverty and war. Working in the shoe factories of Lynn, the condition of his own family, participation in a political organization, and his readings instilled a great sensitivity for the lives of poor and working people.
The Great Depression of the 1930s caused many of the businesses in Lynn, so Ferrini’s family transferred to the South where young Vincent worked as a teacher in the WPA . And he became a poet. He published his first volume of poems, No Smoke, in 1940 where one of his most admired poems described the economic death of the largest city in the world of shoes. This poem is still used as an epilogue to the footwear industry museum in Lynn.
In 1943 he published Injunction, in 1945 Blood of the Tenements. Ferrini’s first three volumes of poetry are classics of the time when lyrical sentiments are mixed with political commitment and with passion for the suffering of workers .
At the outbreak of World War II, he had to work at General Electric in Boston where he made components for weapons of war. This made a lasting impression on Ferrini which manifested in his work. After the war he taught at the Sam Adams School in Boston. Retiring from teaching, he moved to Gloucester, a fishing village north of Boston. The American political environment changed, when his life and his poetry until then had been focused on politics and society. In Gloucester he developed personal reflections on life and the connection of humans to the rest of the cosmos. Gloucester unleashed his dream, and the next 59 years the village became his haven and his escape in search of a spiritual dimension transcending humanity. Gloucester and Ferrini fused.
Charles Olson, an important second generation American modernist poet, after reading a poem by Ferrini in 1949 in the journal Imago, sought him out. Ferrini ‘s lyricism became the catalyst of an incredible literary union: Olson, Robert Creeley, and Vincent Ferrini. Then in the sixties, after the death of his daughter Deirdre to leukemia, he divorced his wife and married the artist Mary Shore. When this second marriage ended, Ferrini’s haven became a meeting point of many artists, poets and writers.
In January 1973 Vincent returned to Raia. He describes this experience as, “A few days to leave the Holy Fire and experience the paradise of poverty; visit friends of old, Victor and Orestes; see the family home in Via Garibaldi and the Church of San Venancio; the cemetery where rests my cousin Postiglione, a poet of the myths, the many faces of our father, our mother, and me.”
He continued to write and read his poetry. Although his work was no longer blatant political statements, his activism remained in hundreds of meetings at City Hall, expressing his concern to preserve his city from the fires of greed that could annihilate the spirit and originality of “his” town, Gloucester, where he “became” a poet.
Until his last month he wrote poems and read his poetry at public meetings around the United States: Universities, Museums, and Libraries. The last public reading of Vincent Ferrini was held in Los Angeles, May 2007, and on Christmas Eve of 2007 he died at the age of 94.
The human and literary Vincent was the subject of a critically acclaimed film, “Poem in Action: A Portrait of Vincent Ferrini.” His literary force and his love for poetry released his 67 year flight of creativity. He left thirty volumes of poetry, four volumes of plays, and an autobiography. His poetry was filled with the strength of his social conscience: the life of the oppressed, the poor, battered women, or the hard life of fishermen, a visionary sensitive to the environment, community, and planet, in love with life, man and earth.
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Miss McCulla is a retired English teacher of 32 years. She has Mastery of the grammar and mechanics of English, and has taught expository writing, fictional writing, and rhetorical skills to hundreds of students and aspiring writers throughout her career. She has written/edited/self-published five books and currently writes for and edits a writing blog called The Underground Tutor where she gathers essays, articles, entries, papers, manuals, profiles, criticisms, and analyses of literature, just like those asked of students and writers in the university and publishing houses.
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