LGBT People Of History Part Seventy Six Allen Ginsberg
Born Irwin Allen Ginsberg on June 3rd 1926 in Newark, New Jersey, Allen was to become an American poet and a leading figure of the beat movement of the 1950s.
He was born in to a Jewish family in Newark but was brought up in nearby Patterson. His father was Louis Ginsberg, a poet and high school teacher, and his mother was Naomi Livergant Ginsberg.
Naomi was an active member of the Communist Party, taking her children to the many meetings that she attended. Sadly Naomi suffered from a mental illness though she was never diagnosed. The illness would manifest itself as paranoid delusions and also Naomi did try to commit suicide.
The delusions that Naomi would encounter would make her claim that her mother in law was trying to kill her and also that the President had placed hearing devices in the family home and was watching and listening to their every move.
Naomi spent much of Allen’s youth in and out of mental hospitals and was institutionalised. She died sadly in 1956.
In his teenage years Allen would write letters to the New York Times about political issues such as World War Two. Later at high school, Allen began to read Walt Whitman’s many works and drew much inspiration from his findings.
He graduated from East Side High School in 1943 then after a brief spell at the Montclair State College; Allen attended the University Of Columbia on a scholarship.
Whilst at the University, Allen won the Woodberry Poetry Prize and served as President of the Philoxian Society.
Naomi’s illness did inspire two of Allen’s works ‘Howl’ and also ‘Kaddish for Naomi Ginsberg.’
Whilst at university Allen met Lucien Carr who introduced Allen to many future beat writers such as Jack Kerouac and William S Burroughs.
In1954, in San Francisco, Allen met Peter Orlovsky and fell in love with him. They became lifelong partners. He met members of the San Francisco Renaissance and was one of the founders of ‘Beatitude’ poetry magazine. In 1955, he took part in the ‘Six Gallery Reading’, widely recognised as one of the most important events in the ‘Beat Generation’. He read his most important poem ‘Howl’ which was notorious for its explicit language and use of stark sexual imagery. It was temporarily banned. This work is probably a biography of Ginsberg’s life up to 1955.
In 1957, he and Peter ended up in Paris, France where Ginsberg finished his poem ‘Kaddish’ and met Burroughs and together they put together ‘Naked Lunch’. They (he and Peter) then travelled all over India.
In 1965 they moved to London where Ginsberg and many others were involved in ‘The International Poetry Incarnation’ in the Royal Albert Hall. The term ‘Beat’ refers to Ginsberg and Corso, Orlovsky, Kerouac and Burroughs (and others). Later Ginsberg became a link between the beat generation and the hippie movement of the 1960s.
He became involved with Buddhism and Krishnaism, but sometimes had disagreements with the practitioners due to prohibitions imposed by the religions. He did introduce Krishnaism to US society in San Francisco and the chanting of the ‘Hare Krishna Mantra’.
In 1986 Allen was awarded the Golden Wreath by the Struga Poetry Evening’s International Festival in Macedonia, as the second American poet since WH Auden to receive the award.
In1974 he won the National Book Award for’ The Fall of America’ (split with Adrienne Rich, ‘Diving into the Wreck’).
In 1993, the French Minister of Culture awarded him the medal of ‘Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres’ (the Knight of Arts and Letters).
He died on April 5th 1997after succumbing to liver cancer via complications of hepatitis.
He was 70 years old.
Callum & Ian
With Thanks to Wikipedia.
- LGBT People Of History Collection
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