||Allen Ginsberg, American poet and one of the founders of the Beat movement, was born
1926, the second son of Louis and Naomi Ginsberg. His father was an English teacher,
and a socialist; his mother was a communist and an active member in the Party; both
children of Russian-Jewish immigrants. Naomi also suffered from paranoid delusions
Ginsberg often stayed home from school to take care of her during her depressions.
entered several institutions for varying lengths of time and eventually had to be
permanently committed. The experience of watching the decline of his mother's mental
made Ginsberg very sensitive to and uniquely qualified to deal throughout his life
people of varying mental states.
||A good student despite his difficulties at home, Ginsberg entered Columbia in 1943
pre-law student, but with a strong interest in poetry. He contributed frequently to
student publications. He was expelled for one year in 1945 after he scrawled obscene
in the dust on his dorm window and was subsequently found in bed with Jack Kerouac.
issue of homosexuality was not brought up at his disciplinary hearing with the Dean,
he was fined for having an unregistered overnight guest and for the obscenities, and
expelled for one year in the hope that he might mature enough to continue his education.
||Ginsberg promptly moved in with William Burroughs, who became his mentor, exposing
readings far outside the narrow scope of Columbia's conservative literature department.
While living with Burroughs, Ginsberg was also immersed in the New York underground
crime, and sex scene and became friends with Lucian Carr, Neal Cassady, and John Holmes,
among others, as well as Kerouac who was also studying with Burroughs. Ginsberg returned
Columbia but continued his experimentation with drugs and writing forms. In 1947,
dropped out of Columbia and took a merchant ship to Africa and back. Returning to
Harlem, Ginsberg suffered a sort of break-down and experienced a vision which gave
glimpse of creative realms outside the norms of the material world. He and Kerouac,
also had a conversion experience that year, turned to Buddhism and other Eastern influences,
turning their backs on Western religion and the status quo.
||In 1949 Ginsberg moved out of East Harlem and into downtown Manhattan where Herbert
and several of his friends began storing stolen goods. The police raided the apartment
Ginsberg served eight months in the New York Psychiatric Hospital where he met Carl
who offered further challenges to his convictions about poetry. Ginsberg continued
the collection of poems later published in 1972 as The Gates of Wrath.
||Through the 1950s Ginsberg traveled through Mexico and Cuba, and eventually reached
California. He began studying Zen and other eastern philosophies and in 1956 he gave
first public poetry reading, performing Howl to a stunned audience. At
the age of 29, Allen Ginsberg had produced a work of poetry that would speak to an
||Ginsberg traveled to Europe and Tangiers in the late fifties with his lover Peter
and settled back in New York in 1959. He traveled to Peru in 1960 and in 1961 began
which lasted six years and took him through India, Eastern Europe, and parts of Asia
including Vietnam. While visiting Gary Snyder in Japan, Ginsberg had another personal
revelation, this one showing him that the way to alternative realms was not found
outside of himself via mind altering drugs, but rather by looking inside himself through
use of meditation. The stories of his travels and of "the
Change" were published in Planet News (1968).
||From 1970 onward, Ginsberg's fame grew. He traveled around the country participating
peace rallies and sit-ins, and published widely. As his writing began to make money
up a non-profit organization and donated the money to destitute writers, independent
newspapers, and the legal defense of arrested peace protesters. He purchased a farm
upstate New York which he and various friends made relatively self-sufficient. He
contributed lyrics to and performed with the punk rock band the Clash, performed with
Dylan's Rolling Thunder Tour, and jammed with John Lennon. He continued to teach,
write, and perform into the nineties. He died of liver cancer in 1997.