Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg was born in Newark, New Jersey on June 3, 1926. His father, Louis Ginsberg, was a published poet and a high school teacher. His

mother, Naomi, was a radical Communist, paranoid, psychotic, and died in a mental institution in 1956. Ginsberg also had a brother who became a lawyer

in Paterson, New Jersey.

Ginsberg's childhood was very complicated. Ginsberg's mother only trusted him and thought that the rest of the family and the world was plotting

against her.

Ginsberg attended Columbia college to become a lawyer as his father

had planned. However, Ginsberg's new crowd at Columbia did not encourage him in his studies, and he got suspended from Columbia for

various small offenses. He experimented with marijuana, and crused gay bars. Himself and his friends believed that they were working towards some kind of uncertain but great poetic vision, which he called the New Vision.

But all of the joyful craziness with his friends it was symbolizing the real craziness of his mother. Knowing that he was basically sane, Ginsberg embrassed a bizare lifestyle. This all changed as he entered a 'straight' phase

after his arrest and imprisonment. Ginsberg started to date a woman named Helen Parker and began a job as a marketing researcher. However this 'straight' phase did not last long, as he met Carl Solomon in the waiting room

of a psychiatric hospital.

Ginsberg had many other occupations besides writing poetry. Such as a dishwasher, a welder, and an editor. He was the first Beat writer to gain popularity when he wrote his famous poem Howl. Ginsberg followed Howl

with several other important new poems, such as sunflower sutra.

Ginsberg had many influences on his writings. One major and very important influence was his mother. His mother was the main topic for the poem Kaddish, which describes his mother's insanity and death. Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs also had an impact on Ginsberg's

writings. Ginsberg used Kerouac's methods of spontaneous composition and expressing poems through music. Burrough's introduced Ginsberg to the "druggy-gay-hipster" lifestyle. These three are said to be the founders of the beat generation. Ginsberg also borrowed Walt Whitman and William Blake's

ordinary and unrhymed style and made it his own. Another influence on his writing was the time period. The 1960's were a period when people started to become aware of government doings. This led the people who

disapproved to protest. Ginsberg led protesters at the 1968 Democratic Convention with chants against violence.

Ginsberg was a truly and simply free soul. He refused to deny himself or be embarrassed about anything. Ginsberg despised the straight, normal

world dominated by money, machinery and war. Ginsberg also believed in free speech and promoted gay liberation. He was part of many 60's events such as Ken Kesey's Acid Test Festivals, the San Fransisco Be-In, and the

Chicago Democratic Convention antiwar protests. Since he was a famous American poet, Ginsberg obtained audiences with important political figures

all over the world. During the 60's he took advantage of this and annoyed and angered one important official after another. By doing so he was kicked out of Cuba and Prague. He was also a fimilar figure at protest against the

Vietnam War.

Ginsberg was said to be one of the few Beat writers who had genuine literary talent. Helen Vendler said "Ginsberg is responsible for loosening the

breath of American poetry at mid-century." Allen Grossman stated that between Howl and Kaddish, Ginsberg lost his humor and gained a kind of horror which even he could not adapt to. Ginsberg also won the National

Arts Club Gold Medal for lifetime achievement, and a National Book Award.

Ginsberg carried on an active social schedule until his death, April 5, 1997. At the age of 71 Ginsberg died of liver cancer. He was regarded as

the Walt Whitman and the William Carlos Williams of his generation.

Related Essays on Poetry