Allen Ginsberg - book author
Irwin Allen Ginsberg was the son of Louis and Naomi Ginsberg, two Jewish members of the New York literary counter-culture of the 1920s. Ginsberg was raised among several progressive political perspectives. A supporter of the Communist party, Ginsberg's mother was a nudist whose mental health was a concern throughout the poet's childhood. According to biographer Barry Miles, "Naomi's illness gave Allen an enormous empathy and tolerance for madness, neurosis, and psychosis."
As an adolescent, Ginsberg savored Walt Whitman, though in 1939, when Ginsberg graduated high school, he considered Edgar Allan Poe his favorite poet. Eager to follow a childhood hero who had received a scholarship to Columbia University, Ginsberg made a vow that if he got into the school he would devote his life to helping the working class, a cause he took seriously over the course of the next several years.
He was admitted to Columbia University, and as a student there in the 1940s, he began close friendships with William S. Burroughs, Neal Cassady, and Jack Kerouac, all of whom later became leading figures of the Beat movement. The group led Ginsberg to a "New Vision," which he defined in his journal: "Since art is merely and ultimately self-expressive, we conclude that the fullest art, the most individual, uninfluenced, unrepressed, uninhibited expression of art is true expression and the true art."
Around this time, Ginsberg also had what he referred to as his "Blake vision," an auditory hallucination of William Blake reading his poems "Ah Sunflower," "The Sick Rose," and "Little Girl Lost." Ginsberg noted the occurrence several times as a pivotal moment for him in his comprehension of the universe, affecting fundamental beliefs about his life and his work. While Ginsberg claimed that no drugs were involved, he later stated that he used various drugs in an attempt to recapture the feelings inspired by the vision.
In 1954, Ginsberg moved to San Francisco. His mentor, William Carlos Williams, introduced him to key figures in the San Francisco poetry scene, including Kenneth Rexroth. He also met Michael McClure, who handed off the duties of curating a reading for the newly-established "6" Gallery. With the help of Rexroth, the result was "The '6' Gallery Reading" which took place on October 7, 1955. The event has been hailed as the birth of the Beat Generation, in no small part because it was also the first public reading of Ginsberg's "Howl," a poem which garnered world-wide attention for him and the poets he associated with.
Shortly after Howl and Other Poems was published in 1956 by City Lights Bookstore, it was banned for obscenity. The work overcame censorship trials, however, and became one of the most widely read poems of the century, translated into more than twenty-two languages.
In the 1960s and 70s, Ginsberg studied under gurus and Zen masters. As the leading icon of the Beats, Ginsberg was involved in countless political activities, including protests against the Vietnam War, and he spoke openly about issues that concerned him, such as free speech and gay rights agendas.
Ginsberg went on publish numerous collections of poetry, including Kaddish and Other Poems (1961), Planet News (1968), and The Fall of America: Poems of These States (1973), which won the National Book Award.
In 1993, Ginsberg received the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres (the Order of Arts and Letters) from the French Minister of Culture. He also co-founded and directed the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute in Colorado. In his later years, Ginsberg became a Distinguished Professor at Brooklyn College.
On April 5, 1997, in New York City, he died from complications of hepatitis.
Allen Ginsberg is the author of books: Howl and Other Poems, Kaddish and Other Poems, Collected Poems, 1947-1980, Howl, Collected Poems 1947-1997, Reality Sandwiches, Howl: Original Draft Facsimile, Transcript & Variant Versions, Fully Annotated by Author, with Contemporaneous Correspondence, Howl, Kaddish and Other Poems, The Fall of America: Poems of These States 1965-1971, Selected Poems, 1947–1995
When the book arrived from its British printers, it was seized almost immediately by U.S. Customs, and shortly thereafter the San Francisco police arrested its publisher and editor, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, together with City Lights Bookstore manager Shigeyoshi Murao. The two of them were charged with disseminating obscene literature, and the case went to trial in the municipal court of Judge Clayton Horn. A parade of distinguished literary and academic witnesses persuaded the judge that the title poem was indeed not obscene and that it had “redeeming social significance.”
Thus was Howl & Other Poems freed to become the single most influential poetic work of the post-World War II era, with over 900,000 copies now in print."
In the midst of the broken consciousness of mid-twentieth century suffering anguish of separation from my own body and its natural infinity of feeling its own self one with all self, I instinctively seeking to reconstitute that blissful union which I experience so rarely. I took it to be supernatural an gave it holy Name thus made hymn laments of longing and litanies of triumphancy of Self over mind-illusion mechano-universe of un-feeling Time in which I saw my self my own mother and my very nation trapped desolate our worlds of consciousness homeless and at war except for the original trembling of bliss in breast and belly of every body that nakedness rejected in suits of fear that familiar defenseless living hurt self which is myself same as all others abandoned scared to own unchanging desire for each other. These poems almost unconscious to confess the beatific human fact, the language intuitively chosen as in trance & dream, the rhythms rising on breath from belly thru breast, the hymn completed in tears, the movement of the physical poetry demanding and receiving decades of life while chanting Kaddish the names of Death in many worlds the self seeking the Key to life found at last in our self.
First published in 1956, Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" is a prophetic masterpiece—an epic raging against dehumanizing society that overcame censorship trials and obscenity charges to become one of the most widely read poems of the century.
The uninterrupted energy of Ginsberg's remarkable career is clearly revealed in this collection. Seen in order of composition, the poems reflect on one another; they are not only works but also a work. Included here are all the poems from the earlier volume Collected Poems 1947-1980, and from Ginsberg's subsequent and final three books of new poetry: White Shroud, Cosmopolitan Greetings, and Death & Fame. Enriching this book are illustrations by Ginsberg's artist friends; unusual and illuminating notes to the poems, inimitably prepared by the poet himself; extensive indexes; as well as prefaces and various other materials that accompanied the original publications.
Wake-up nightmares in Lower East Side, musings in public library, across the U.S. in dream auto, drunk in old Havana, brooding in Mayan ruins, sex daydreams on the West Coast, airplane vision of Kansas, lonely in a leafy cottage, lunch hour on Berkeley, beer notations on Skid Row, slinking to Mexico, wrote this last night in Paris, back on Times square dreaming of Times Square, bombed in NY again, loony tunes in the dentist chair, screaming at old poets in South America, aethereal zigzag Poesy in blue hotel room in Peru—a wind-up book of dreams, psalms, journal enigmas & nude minutes from 1953 to 1960 poems scattered in fugitive magazines here collected.
Beginning with "long poem of these States," The Fall of America continues Planet News chronicle tape-recorded scribed by hand or sung condensed, the flux of car bus airplane dream consciousness Person during Automated Electronic War years, newspaper headline radio brain auto poesy & silent desk musings, headline flashing on road through these states of consciousness. . . .
Selected Poems 1947-1995 commemorates Ginsberg's brilliant career as one of America's most distinguished poets. Here are well-known masterpieces such as the lyric "Howl" and the narrative "Kaddish" -- classic works of American literature -- as well as more recent gems, including the long dream poem "White Shroud," the visionary "After Lalon," and the political rock lyric "The Ballad of the Skeletons," a song he recorded in 1996 with a stellar band that included Philip Glass, Lenny Kaye, and Paul McCartney.