101 Facts About Allen Ginsberg


Irwin Allen Ginsberg was an American poet and writer.


Best known for his poem "Howl", Ginsberg denounced what he saw as the destructive forces of capitalism and conformity in the United States.


Allen Ginsberg was a Buddhist who extensively studied Eastern religious disciplines.


Allen Ginsberg lived modestly, buying his clothing in second-hand stores and residing in apartments in New York City's East Village.


For decades, Allen Ginsberg was active in political protests across a range of issues from the Vietnam War to the war on drugs.


Allen Ginsberg was born into a Jewish family in Newark, New Jersey, and grew up in nearby Paterson.


Allen Ginsberg was the second son of Louis Ginsberg, born in Newark, a schoolteacher and published poet, and the former Naomi Levy, born in Nevel and a fervent Marxist.


Allen Ginsberg published his first poems in the Paterson Morning Call.


In 1943, Allen Ginsberg graduated from Eastside High School and briefly attended Montclair State College before entering Columbia University on a scholarship from the Young Men's Hebrew Association of Paterson.


Allen Ginsberg was a resident of Hartley Hall, where other Beat Generation poets such as Jack Kerouac and Herbert Gold lived.


Allen Ginsberg has stated that he considered his required freshman seminar in Great Books, taught by Lionel Trilling, to be his favorite Columbia course.


Allen Ginsberg was allegedly being prosecuted for harboring stolen goods in his dorm room.


Allen Ginsberg took part in public readings at the Episcopal St Mark's Church in-the-Bowery which would later hold a memorial service for him after his death.


Allen Ginsberg referred to his parents in a 1985 interview as "old-fashioned delicatessen philosophers".


Allen Ginsberg's mother was an active member of the Communist Party and took Ginsberg and his brother Eugene to party meetings.


Naomi Allen Ginsberg had schizophrenia which often manifested as paranoid delusions, disordered thinking and multiple suicide attempts.


Allen Ginsberg tried to kill herself by slitting her wrists and was taken to Greystone, a mental hospital; she would spend much of Ginsberg's youth in mental hospitals.


Allen Ginsberg received a letter from his mother after her death responding to a copy of "Howl" he had sent her.


Also, in New York, Allen Ginsberg met Gregory Corso in the Pony Stable Bar.


Allen Ginsberg introduced Corso to Kerouac and Burroughs and they began to travel together.


In 1948, in an apartment in East Harlem, Allen Ginsberg experienced an auditory hallucination while masturbating and reading the poetry of William Blake, which he later referred to as his "Blake vision".


The experience lasted several days, with him believing that he had witnessed the interconnectedness of the universe; Allen Ginsberg recounted that after looking at latticework on the fire escape of the apartment and then at the sky, he intuited that one had been crafted by human beings, while the other had been crafted by itself.


Allen Ginsberg explained that this hallucination was not inspired by drug use, but said he sought to recapture the feeling of interconnectedness later with various drugs.


In 1954, in San Francisco, Allen Ginsberg met Peter Orlovsky, with whom he fell in love and who remained his lifelong partner.


Also in San Francisco, Allen Ginsberg met members of the San Francisco Renaissance and other poets who would later be associated with the Beat Generation in a broader sense.


In 1959, along with poets John Kelly, Bob Kaufman, AD Winans, and William Margolis, Allen Ginsberg was one of the founders of the Beatitude poetry magazine.


An account of that night can be found in Kerouac's novel The Dharma Bums, describing how change was collected from audience members to buy jugs of wine, and Allen Ginsberg reading passionately, drunken, with arms outstretched.


Allen Ginsberg claimed at one point that all of his work was an extended biography.


Allen Ginsberg later claimed that at the core of "Howl" were his unresolved emotions about his schizophrenic mother.


Allen Ginsberg begins the poem with "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness", which sets the stage for Ginsberg to describe Cassady and Solomon, immortalizing them into American literature.


Allen Ginsberg had several political connections in India; most notably Pupul Jayakar who helped him extend his stay in India when the authorities were eager to expel him.


In May 1965, Allen Ginsberg arrived in London, and offered to read anywhere for free.


Allen Ginsberg never claimed to be the leader of a movement.


Allen Ginsberg claimed that many of the writers with whom he had become friends in this period shared many of the same intentions and themes.


Later in his life, Ginsberg formed a bridge between the beat movement of the 1950s and the hippies of the 1960s, befriending, among others, Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey, Hunter S Thompson, and Bob Dylan.


Allen Ginsberg gave his last public reading at Booksmith, a bookstore in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, a few months before his death.


In 1993, Allen Ginsberg visited the University of Maine at Orono to pay homage to the 90-year-old great Carl Rakosi.


Allen Ginsberg first heard about the Four Noble Truths and such sutras as the Diamond Sutra at this time.


Allen Ginsberg helped Trungpa and New York poet Anne Waldman in founding the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado.


Allen Ginsberg had started incorporating chanting the Hare Krishna mantra into his religious practice in the mid-1960s.


Allen Ginsberg donated money, materials, and his reputation to help the Swami establish the first temple, and toured with him to promote his cause.


Allen Ginsberg was glad that Bhaktivedanta Swami, an authentic swami from India, was now trying to spread the chanting in America.


On January 17,1967, Allen Ginsberg helped plan and organize a reception for Bhaktivedanta Swami at San Francisco International Airport, where fifty to a hundred hippies greeted the Swami, chanting Hare Krishna in the airport lounge with flowers in hands.


Allen Ginsberg introduced Bhaktivedanta Swami to some three thousand hippies in the audience and led the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra.


Allen Ginsberg often accompanied himself on a harmonium, and was often accompanied by a guitarist.


When Ginsberg asked if he could sing a song in praise of Lord Krishna on William F Buckley, Jr.


At the 1967 Human Be-In in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and the 1970 Black Panther rally at Yale campus Allen Ginsberg chanted "Om" repeatedly over a sound system for hours on end.


Allen Ginsberg came in touch with the Hungryalist poets of Bengal, especially Malay Roy Choudhury, who introduced Allen Ginsberg to the three fish with one head of Indian emperor Jalaluddin Mohammad Akbar.


Allen Ginsberg was a lifelong smoker, and though he tried to quit for health and religious reasons, his busy schedule in later life made it difficult, and he always returned to smoking.


Allen Ginsberg won a 1974 National Book Award for The Fall of America.


In 1986, Ginsberg was awarded the Golden Wreath by the Struga Poetry Evenings International Festival in Macedonia, the second American poet to be so awarded since W H Auden.


At Struga, Allen Ginsberg met with the other Golden Wreath winners, Bulat Okudzhava and Andrei Voznesensky.


In 1989, Allen Ginsberg appeared in Rosa von Praunheim's award-winning film Silence = Death about the fight of gay artists in New York City for AIDS-education and the rights of HIV infected people.


Allen Ginsberg continued to help his friends as much as he could: he gave money to Herbert Huncke out of his own pocket, regularly supplied neighbor Arthur Russell with an extension cord to power his home recording setup, and housed a broke, drug-addicted Harry Smith.


Allen Ginsberg died on April 5,1997, surrounded by family and friends in his East Village loft in Manhattan, succumbing to liver cancer via complications of hepatitis at the age of 70.


Allen Ginsberg was cremated, and his ashes were buried in his family plot in Gomel Chesed Cemetery in Newark.


Allen Ginsberg's publisher was brought up on charges for publishing pornography, and the outcome led to a judge going on record dismissing charges, because the poem carried "redeeming social importance," thus setting an important legal precedent.


Allen Ginsberg continued to broach controversial subjects throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.


From 1970 to 1996, Allen Ginsberg had a long-term affiliation with PEN American Center with efforts to defend free expression.


When explaining how he approached controversial topics, he often pointed to Herbert Huncke: he said that when he first got to know Huncke in the 1940s, Allen Ginsberg saw that he was sick from his heroin addiction, but at the time heroin was a taboo subject and Huncke was left with nowhere to go for help.


Allen Ginsberg was a signer of the anti-war manifesto "A Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority", circulated among draft resistors in 1967 by members of the radical intellectual collective RESIST.


In 1968, Allen Ginsberg signed the "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest" pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War, and later became a sponsor of the War Tax Resistance project, which practiced and advocated tax resistance as a form of anti-war protest.


Allen Ginsberg was present the night of the Tompkins Square Park riot and provided an eyewitness account to The New York Times.


Allen Ginsberg talked openly about his connections with communism and his admiration for past communist heroes and the labor movement at a time when the Red Scare and McCarthyism were still raging.


Allen Ginsberg admired Fidel Castro and many other Marxist figures from the 20th century.


In "America", Allen Ginsberg writes: "America, I used to be a communist when I was a kid I'm not sorry".


Allen Ginsberg travelled to several communist countries to promote free speech.


Allen Ginsberg claimed that communist countries, such as China, welcomed him because they thought he was an enemy of capitalism, but often turned against him when they saw him as a troublemaker.


For example, in 1965 Allen Ginsberg was deported from Cuba for publicly protesting the persecution of homosexuals.


The Cubans sent him to Czechoslovakia, where one week after being named the Kral majalesu, Allen Ginsberg was arrested for alleged drug use and public drunkenness, and the security agency StB confiscated several of his writings, which they considered to be lewd and morally dangerous.


Allen Ginsberg was then deported from Czechoslovakia on May 7,1965, by order of the StB.


Allen Ginsberg was an early proponent of freedom for gay people.


Allen Ginsberg struck a note for gay marriage by listing Peter Orlovsky, his lifelong companion, as his spouse in his Who's Who entry.


Allen Ginsberg was a staunch supporter of others whose expression challenged obscenity laws.


In 1994, Allen Ginsberg appeared in a documentary on NAMBLA called Chicken Hawk: Men Who Love Boys, in which he read a "graphic ode to youth".


Allen Ginsberg organized the New York City chapter of LeMar.


Allen Ginsberg wrote many essays and articles, researching and compiling evidence of the CIA's alleged involvement in drug trafficking, but it took ten years, and the publication of McCoy's book in 1972, before anyone took him seriously.


In 1978, Allen Ginsberg received a note from the chief editor of The New York Times, apologizing for not having taken his allegations seriously.


In 1955, upon the advice of a psychiatrist, Allen Ginsberg dropped out of the working world to devote his entire life to poetry.


Later in life, Allen Ginsberg entered academia, teaching poetry as Distinguished Professor of English at Brooklyn College from 1986 until his death.


For example, when Kerouac saw the first draft of Howl, he disliked the fact that Allen Ginsberg had made editorial changes in pencil.


Allen Ginsberg said the image of Moloch was inspired by peyote visions he had of the Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco which appeared to him as a skull; he took it as a symbol of the city.


Allen Ginsberg later acknowledged in various publications and interviews that behind the visions of the Francis Drake Hotel were memories of the Moloch of Fritz Lang's film Metropolis and of the woodcut novels of Lynd Ward.


Moloch has subsequently been interpreted as any system of control, including the conformist society of post-World War II America, focused on material gain, which Allen Ginsberg frequently blamed for the destruction of all those outside of societal norms.


Allen Ginsberg dealt with it directly with 1959's Kaddish, which had its first public reading at a Catholic Worker Friday Night meeting, possibly due to its associations with Thomas Merton.


Allen Ginsberg's poetry was strongly influenced by Modernism, Romanticism, the beat and cadence of jazz, and his Kagyu Buddhist practice and Jewish background.


Allen Ginsberg considered himself to have inherited the visionary poetic mantle handed down from the English poet and artist William Blake, the American poet Walt Whitman and the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca.


Allen Ginsberg corresponded with William Carlos Williams, who was then in the middle of writing his epic poem Paterson about the industrial city near his home.


Allen Ginsberg included the letter in a later part of Paterson.


Allen Ginsberg encouraged Ginsberg not to emulate the old masters, but to speak with his own voice and the voice of the common American.


Allen Ginsberg claimed that the anaphoric repetition of Howl and other poems was inspired by Christopher Smart in such poems as Jubilate Agno.


Allen Ginsberg claimed other more traditional influences, such as: Franz Kafka, Herman Melville, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Edgar Allan Poe, and Emily Dickinson.


Allen Ginsberg made an intense study of haiku and the paintings of Paul Cezanne, from which he adapted a concept important to his work, which he called the Eyeball Kick.


Allen Ginsberg used this technique in his poetry, putting together two starkly dissimilar images: something weak with something strong, an artifact of high culture with an artifact of low culture, something holy with something unholy.


Allen Ginsberg frequently included music in his poetry, invariably composing his tunes on an old Indian harmonium, which he often played during his readings.


Allen Ginsberg wrote and recorded music to accompany William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience.


Allen Ginsberg worked with, drew inspiration from, and inspired artists such as Bob Dylan, The Clash, Patti Smith, Phil Ochs, and The Fugs.


Allen Ginsberg worked with Dylan on various projects and maintained a friendship with him over many years.


Allen Ginsberg abandoned the "stepped triadic" when he developed his long line although the stepped lines showed up later, most significantly in the travelogues of The Fall of America.


In Howl and in his other poetry, Allen Ginsberg drew inspiration from the epic, free verse style of the 19th-century American poet Walt Whitman.


Allen Ginsberg's work is finally a history of our era's psyche, with all its contradictory urges.