Last month at the PubWest 2016 Conference, City Lights Publisher Elaine Katzenberger accepted the annual Jack D. Rittenhouse Award, presented in Santa Fe, NM. City Lights founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti was unable to attend; the energetic 96-year-old recently attended a conference in Mexico, said Katzenberger, and he just couldn’t get back on the road so soon afterward.
“A big part of what informs City Lights is a poetic sensibility. Poets [like Ferlinghetti] are outward-looking, often. Heightened powers of observation, heightened sensitivity, a desire to share that, as well as an ability to condense complex notions into small bits of language. Those are some really core traits that influence and inform what it is that City Lights does and what its mission has always been,” Katzenberger told PubWest Conference attendees.
“The mission [of City Lights] really is to inspire and to shake you out of your complacency in some way so that you can look at the person next to you and say, ‘Wow, did you ever think of that?’ Those are the moments when we’re all free,” she said. “That’s what Lawrence Ferlinghetti gave us, and that’s what City Lights continues to give us.”
Elaine Katzenberger is the Executive Director and Publisher of City Lights Books, and Program Director for the City Lights Foundation. Hired in 1987, Katzenberger spent the first six years of her long career at City Lights bookstore in San Francisco working as a “frontline bookseller.” In 1993 she began her editorial apprenticeship at City Lights. Katzenberger succeeded Nancy J. Peters as the Publisher and Director of the company in 2007; she continues to acquire and edit titles, most recently City Lights’ first-ever children’s book, Rad American Women A-Z, which landed on the New York Times bestseller list for nine consecutive weeks as well as the latest book of poetry by Juan Felipe Herrera, the current U.S. Poet Laureate.
Established in 1990 as a way to thank and honor those who have made a real contribution to the western community of the book, the Jack D. Rittenhouse Award is given annually in memory of the West’s consummate bookman. “We are honored ourselves to present the award to Mr. Ferlinghetti and Ms. Katzenberger, both quintessential devotees to the culture of the book,” said PubWest Board President Katie Burke.