Allen Ginsberg, the visionary poet and founding father of the Beat generation inspired the American counterculture of the second half of the 20th century with groundbreaking poems such as “Howl” (1956) and “Kaddish” (1961). Among the avant-garde he was considered a spiritual and sexually liberated ambassador for tolerance and enlightenment. With an energetic and loving personality, Ginsberg used poetry for both personal expression and in his fight for a more interesting and open society.
Allen Ginsberg was born in Newark, New Jersey on June 3, 1926. After graduating from high school, Ginsberg attended Columbia University, where he planned to study law. There he became friends with Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs. With an interest in the street life of the city, Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs found inspiration in jazz music and the culture that surrounded it. They encouraged a break from traditional values, supporting drug-use as a means of enlightenment. To many, their shabby dress and “hip” language seemed irresponsible, but in their actions could be found the seeds of a revolution that was meant to cast off the shackles of the calm and boring social life of the post-war era. Ginsberg labored tirelessly to promote not only his own work, but also the writings of Kerouac, Burroughs, and many others associated with the Beat Generation, including Gregory Corso, Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, Diane di Prima, Philip Whalen, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Neal Cassady. Ginsberg’s works often addressed politics, the anti-war movement and counterculture of the 1960s, and the visionary.
Text Sources: PBS.org and allenginsberg.org.
Image Source: Poetry Foundation.