Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night, who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz…”

Poet and “Founding Father of the Beat Generation” Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) was born in Newark, New Jersey and attended Columbia University (getting suspended at one point and joining the Merchant Marines). While in New York, he met Jack Kerouac and William S Burroughs, and the three of them formed the core of the Beat movement. He was arrested after driving a car full of stolen good and plea bargained his way into a stay at Columbia Psychiatric Institute. There he met Carl Solomon to whom he would later dedicate Howl. He travelled the United States and Mexico. Some of these adventures are chronicled in ON THE ROAD and are attributed to the character Carlo Marx. In 1955 Ginsberg read a part of “Howl” in San Francisco and the poem caught the eye of publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti. In 1956, HOWL AND OTHER POEMS was published, sparking an obscenity trial that Ginsberg ultimately won. This poem catapulted him into literary celebrity. Ginsberg wrote and travelled extensively (often with his longtime partner Peter Orlovsky) over the next several decades and was politically active on a variety of topics. He also converted to Buddhism. He died from liver cancer at the age of 70.

Sources:
PBS American Masters: Allen Ginsberg http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/ginsberg_a.html#

Allen Ginsberg.org http://www.allenginsberg.org/index.php?page=lifeline

Wilborn Hampton “Ginsberg, Master Poet of the Beat Generation, Dies at 70.” NYT http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/0603.html

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