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Allen Ginsberg is one of the 20th century's most influential poets, regarded as a founding father of the Beat Movement and known for works like "Howl."
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Allen Ginsberg was born on June 3, 1926, in Newark, New Jersey, and eventually became one of the founding fathers of the Beat Generation with his revolutionary poem "Howl." Ginsberg was a prolific writer who also championed gay rights and anti-war movements, protesting the Vietnam War and coining the phrase "Flower Power." Even with his countercultural background,
"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..."
''Whitman long ago complained that unless the material power of America were leavened by some kind of spiritual infusion, we would wind up among the 'fabled damned.' ...Only way out is individuals taking responsibility and saying what they actually feel."
"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked."
"Are you going to let your emotional life be run by TIME magazine?"
"You don't have to be right. All you have to do is be candid."
"Fierce hunger, hair, and teeth, and the roar of bone pain, skull bare, break rib, rock skin, brain tricked, implacability, I, I, we did worse."
he became recognized as one of American's foremost writers and artistic icons. He died on April 5, 1997, at age 70.
Irwin Allen Ginsberg was born on June 3, 1926, in Newark, New Jersey, and grew up in the city of Paterson. His mother Naomi had immigrated from Russia to the states while his father Louis was a poet and teacher. The young Ginsberg, who kept a journal from his pre-teen years and took to the poetry of Walt Whitman in high school, went on to attend Columbia University. While there he met former Columbia student Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs, whom would all become literary icons of a revolutionary cultural movement. Ginsberg started to focus on his writing during the mid-1940s while also exploring his attraction to men.
Ginsberg graduated from Columbia in 1948, but in the following year was involved as an accomplice in a robbery. To avoid jail time, Ginsberg pleaded insanity, spending time in the university's mental health facilities. Upon his release, he started to study under poet William Carlos Williams and worked for a time at a Manhattan ad agency.
In 1954, Ginsberg moved to San Francisco and became part of the countercultural gathering that would come to be known as the Beat Movement, which used a number of artistic and sensory modes to eschew rigid rules of society. It was also in the Bay Area where Ginsberg met model Peter Orlovsky, who would become his companion.
Then in 1955, Ginsberg read excerpts from his poem "Howl" at a gallery, which became a key manifesto of the Beat Generation and was published the following year by City Lights Bookstore in the form of Howl and Other Poems. "Howl" was an eye-opening work in its explorations of sexuality, anguish and social issues in non-traditional poetic form, relying on a freewheeling mix of influences.
The poem was deemed as being obscene and Ginsberg was tried for its content, though he was vindicated once the presiding judge ruled the work had merit. The resulting publicity placed Ginsberg and his work in the spotlight and as icons of anti-censorship. During this time Ginsberg experienced deep loss as his mother, who had suffered from a history of severe mental health issues, died in 1956, two days after receiving a lobotomy.
Ginberg's next published work, Kaddish and Other Poems 1958-1960, featured the poem ''Kaddish for Naomi Ginsberg (1894-1956),'' which explored his mother's past and his feelings about their relationship. It is regarded by many as one of his strongest, most affecting works.
Ginsberg was prolific with his writing during the '60s, with some of his published titles including Reality Sandwiches (1963) and Planet News 1961-1967 (1969), and also worked with musical forms as well.
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They were radical, rebellious, experimental…and had a way with words. Starting in the 1950s, the Beat Generation rose to prominence in America, inspiring a culture of nonconformity and social revolution. Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac were some of the more famous faces synonymous to the group, as was William S. Burroughs. Their musings—both "beat up" and "beatific"—left highly influential marks in literature, music, film and ecology.
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Columbia University Alumni 119 people in this group