Irwin Allen Ginsberg was born on June 3, 1926 inNewark, New Jeresy. Louis Ginsberg, Allens dad,was a published poet, a high school teacher and aJewish Socialist.
His wife, Naomi, was a radicalCommunist and nudist who went tragically insane inearly adulthood. A shy and complicated childgrowing up in Paterson, New Jersey, Allen’s homelife was dominated by his mother’s bizarre andfrightening episodes. A severe paranoid, shetrusted Allen when she was convinced the rest ofthe family and the world was plotting against her.As Allen tried to understand what was happeningwith his mother, he also had to struggle tocomprehend what was happening inside him, becausehe was consumed by lust for other boys his age.
Hediscovered the poetry of Walt Whitman (theoriginal Beatnik) in high school, despite hisinterest in poetry he followed his father’s adviceand planned on a career as a lawyer.This was whathe had in mind when he began his freshman year atColumbia University, but what he ended up doingwas running around with a bunch of poets and thelike, including fellow students Lucien Carr andJack Kerouac and friends William S. Burroughs andNeal Cassady. These delinquent young philosophers,you might say were equally obsessed with drugs,crime, sex and literature. Eventually, Allen gotsuspended from Columbia for various smalloffenses.
He began hanging around with TimesSquare junkies and thieves (mostly friends ofBurroughs), experimenting with Benzedrine andmarijuana, and cruising gay bars in GreenwichVillage. At this point in Ginsberg life he andKerouac thought they were working towards somekind of great poetic vision, which they called theNew Vision.Ginsburgs friends acted crazy in asort of joyfull way, that coupled with the realcraziness of his mother, whose condition continuedto worsen until she was hospitalized for life andfinally lobotomized. Some people deal withinsanity in the family by becoming exaggeratedlynormal, but Ginsberg went in the oppositedirection. Knowing himself to be sane, he usedbizarreness as a style of life, as if seeking tofind the edge his mother had fallen over. In 1948,the 26-year-old Allen Ginsberg had a mad visionreading William Blake in which Blake came to himin person.
This was a great moment of his life,and he told his family and friends that he hadfound God. Ginsberg had a change of values oncewhen several of Ginsberg’s friends (such asBurroughs and Herbert Huncke) resulted in thearrest and imprisonment of Allen.Ginsberg entereda ‘straight’ phase: he recounced Burroughs,immersed himself in psychoanalytic treatment, andbegan dating a woman named Helen Parker. He thenproclaimed to be a heterosexual, found a job as amarketing researcher.
In an office in the EmpireState Building, he develop an advertising campaignfor Ipana Toothpaste. This phase was not meant tolast. He met Carl Solomon in the waiting room of apsychiatric hospital. The important New Jerseypoet William Carlos Williams, whose poem about thetown of Paterson had impressed Ginsberg greatly.Bearing a letter of introduction from the poetWilliams, Ginsberg traveled to San Francisco andmet Kenneth Rexroth, leader of an emerging localpoetry movement, which Ginsberg became a part ofalmost instantly.At the age of 29, Ginsberg hadwrote a lot of poetry but published almost none.He worked hard to promote the works of Kerouac andBurroughs to publishers, but never his own. But hewas the first Beat writer to gain notice when hegave a performance of his new poem ‘Howl’ at thelegendary Six Gallery poetry reading in October1955.
This poem, which brought about an obscenitycharge that made Allen a worldwide symbol ofsexual depravity (as homosexuality was thenveiwed). Ginsberg followed ‘Howl’ with severalother new poems, such as ‘Sunflower Sutra.’ At acritical stage in his career, he somehow was ableto avoid the ‘fame burnout’ that Kerouac fell praytoo.
Ginsberg mellowed considerably during thisperiod, after travelling the world, discoveringBuddhism and falling in love with Peter Orlovsky,who would remain a constant companion (thoughtheir relationship was not monogamous) for thirtyyears. Perhaps to rid himself of somethingGinsberg wrote ‘Kaddish,’ a poem about hismother’s insanity and death.His celebrity grew asthe ‘Beat’ concept evolved from an idea into amovement and then into a cliche. In the earlysixties, Ginsberg threw himself into the hippiescene.
He and Timothy Leary worked together onLeary’s new discovery, the psychedelic drug LSD.As a famous American poet, Ginsberg was able tohold audiences with important political figuresall over the world, and during the 60’s he tookadvantage of this repeatedly. He mainly justpissed off one important official after another,getting kicked out of Cuba and Prague, andannoying American conservatives.
He was a familiarfigure at protests against the Vietnam War, thiscoupled with the fact he was so open with hisviews helped put America in a mood which wasagainst the war. The list of 60’s events thatGinsberg played an important part in.Heparticipated in Ken Kesey’s Acid Test Festivals inSan Francisco, and helped Kesey relieve tensionbetween the San Francisco hippies and the Hell’sAngels. In the summer of 1965 Ginsberg made a tripto London with several other Beat figures. Theirreading at the Royal Albert Hall is what startedthe London underground scene, which helped spark anew breed from which bands like Pink Floyd and TheSoft Machine would come about. Bob Dylan oftencited Ginsberg as one of the few literary figureshe could stand. Ginsberg can be seen standing inthe alley in the background of Dylan’s 1965’Subterranean Homesick Blues’ video, and laterplayed a part in Dylan’s 1977 film ‘Renaldo andClara.’ Ginsberg, Gary Snyder and Michael McClureled the crowd in chanting OM at the San FransiscoBe-In in 1967.
In 1970 Ginsberg met with Tibetanguru Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.Ginsberg soonaccepted Trungpa as his personal guru. He and poetAnne Waldman joined to create a poetry school, TheJack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, atTrungpa’s Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado.
In the early eighties Ginsberg joined the punkrock movement, appearing on the Clash’s ‘CombatRock’ album and performing with them on stage.Ginsberg carried on an active social scheduleuntil his death in April 1997. He never moved awayfrom his apartment in the streets of New YorkCity’s Lower East Side, and would constantly beseen at local readings and gatherings, either on astage or in a crowd. I think this book opened mymind not only to a great poet but also a wholegeneration of people. It gave me insight on towhat was happening at that time. With the wholeanti-war movement, and the discrimination ofhomosexuals.
Both of which Ginsberg spoke andwrote about. Ginsberg was not just a poet from thesixties, he was an embodiment of what a lot ofyouth of that generation were thinking but couldntsay. Ginsberg gave them that voice. Overall I gotwhat I expected out of the book.
An overview ofAllen Ginsberg. I wish it had gone more in depthon his poems though.It only once brought anexcerpt of the Howl and that was to show whatGinsberg was meaning to tell. I wish it had donemore of this, and with more then just the Howl. IfI were to read another book about Ginsberg itwould have to be a review of his poetry, and maybean interpretation of them.
Im glad the book cutright to Ginsbergs later years, because I thinkthose were his most interesting years. The bookdidnt go into that much depth on his 20s and so,mainly after he left New Jersey for San Fransico.The 60s is what it pretty much went in depth on.His time around San Fransico and his life with hislover Peter Orlovsky, and his experiments withTimothy Leary. I also wish the book had maybehelped us get an idea of what his mother did toyoung Allen.I think this would maybe help usunderstand him as a person and his poetry. I thinka mothers insanity would help mold your life invery traumatic ways. Other then that I thought thebook was excelently written and Im glad I read it.
The book interested me so much, I went out andbought a book of Ginsbergs poems, it also helpedme find other beat-poets to study, like JackKerouac, William Carlos Williams, and William S.Burroughs. I also did some research on the authorJane Kramer, just wanting to know what hercredentials were on writing a book about Allen. Itall stemmed from the whole credibility lecture yougave.
I wanted to know if her view of Allen wasmaybe biased in some way.I guess she interviewAllen a lot and was allowed to review journalentries Allen had been keeping. The book waswritten while Allen was still alive and so I thinkthis was also helpful. It would be interesting tofind a book written after his death though, justto compare the points of view on Allensaccomplishments. I would have to say overallthough that Im very pleased with the subject Ichoose and the book I read I think gave as a clearun-biased view of Allen Ginsberg as could bewritten. Bibliography:.