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December 27, 2007

A legend lost

Vincent Ferrini, Gloucester’s poet laureate and a figure renowned in literary and local circles for his radical, political, economic and social opinions of America and enduring passion for things authentic, especially his adopted city, died Monday. He was 94.

According to his daughter, Sheila Ferrini of Chelsea, the cause of death was a heart attack and pneumonia. He had resided at Den-Mar Nursing Home in Rockport since last May, after returning from a reading at the Beyond Baroque Literary Art Center in Los Angeles.

“He was the conscience of Gloucester,” said his friend, retiring Mayor John Bell. “He was the one who asked us to think about who we are.”

“He was more alive than anyone I have ever met,” said the painter and former city councilor, Joseph Kaknes.

“He was totally without inhibition,” said his close friend, author Peter Anastas.

Together with his friend and ersatz sibling rival, Charles Olson, Ferrini demonstrated to the world that Gloucester was as fertile an environment for poets as it was for painters.

From his arrival here in 1948, Ferrini dedicated himself to seeing that it should always be that way.

In Gloucester, he became a dashing, ebullient, living legend, an undersized, overpowering force, predictably found under a broad-brimmed hat. He had a well-known weakness for dancing.

He attracted admirers, and constant, affectionate attention from a seemingly endless line of newfound friends, often less than half his age.

Women, especially, found Ferrini irresistible, Bell said.

Ferrini produced an enormous range of poetry that seemed to want to be organized into three distinct chapters and styles that roughly matched the phases of his life.

During his life, Ferrini published more than 30 volumes of poetry, including an autobiography written largely in verse and volumes of verse that seem more political and social criticism than poetry.

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