"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked..."
--Allen Ginsberg from "Howl"
Dedicated to the memory of Allen
Ginsberg and the profound influence his work has had on
me personally and the world at large..
son of lyric poet Louis Ginsberg and radical Communist and nudist
Naomi Ginsberg, Irwin Allen Ginsberg was born on June 3, 1926 in
Newark, New Jersey.
Growing up in Patterson, New Jersey, Ginsberg was shy and complicated,
his home life dominated by his mother's bizarre and frigthening
paranoid episodes. On top of this, he was engulfed by a lust for
other boys his age.
It was in high school that Ginsberg found an interest in poetry,
being first subjected to the poetry of Walt Whitman.Despite this
interest, he planned a career as a labor lawyer, following the advice
of his father.
As he began his freshman year of college at Columbia University,
Ginsberg found a crowd of urban cowboys, fellow students Lucien
Carr and Jack Kerouac, as well as their non-student friends William
Burroughs and Neal Cassady.
Eventually, Ginsberg was suspended from the university. The influence
of his new friends had destroyed his once bookish ways. It was at
this point in time that he discovered Benzedrine and marijuana while
spending his days with Times Square junkies. He also began cruising
the gay bars of Greenwich Village. After a a passionate, sexual
affair with Neal Cassady, which led Ginsberg cross-country to San
Francisco and Denver (followed by Jack Kerouac, planting the seeds
for On The Road), and his
arrest and imprisonment, Ginsberg renounced Burroughs and entered
a 'Straight Phase'. He began psychotherapy and even maintained a
hetero sexual affair with a woman. This, however, was not meantto
By the age of 29, Ginsberg had written loads of poetry but was still
not published. He put most of his effort into helping Jack Kerouac
and William Burroughs reach print. In spite of this, he was the
first Beat icon to achieve popular acclaim with his recitations
of his new poem "Howl". Unlike Kerouac, Ginsberg did not
fall victim to fame burnout. It's even been said that he mellowed
at this point, having found Buddhism and falling in love with Peter
Orlovsky, who remained a constant companion for thirty years.
As the Beat concept evolved and fall to the wayside as popular cliche,
Ginsberg threw himself in with the hippies, befriending the likes
of LSD gurus Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey, turning on everyone he
knew to this new psychadelic stimulant. He was also an active participant
in many anti-Viet Nam protests and became an important factor in
the revelutionary mindset that was spawned in the 60's.
Irwin Allen Ginsberg passed away on April 5, 1997.