Irwin Allen Ginsberg was born on June 3, 1926 to Louis and Naomi Ginsberg. His father was a poet, teacher and Jewish Socialist. His mother was a radical Communist and nudist, who went insane at an early age. Allen grew up in Paterson, New Jersey, and was extremely shy. His mother’s bizarre bouts of paranoia confused Allen, who was further wrought with confusion as he soon began noticing he was attracted to boys instead of girls.

He found a love for poetry early on, especially for Walt Whitman, though he began to plan a career as a lawyer to appease his father. He attended Columbia University, but within a year his plans began to alter after befriending fellow students Lucien Carr and Jack Kerouac, as well as non-students William Burroughs and Neal Cassady. Ginsberg’s friends guided him further into the world of sex, crime, drugs and literature, and eventually he was suspended from the school. While experimenting with drugs and hanging out with criminals, the literary group continued to write, working towards what Ginsberg and Kerouac coined as the “New Vision.” Ginsberg carried on a long affair with Neal Cassady, and would visit Cassady in Denver and San Fransisco often. These cross-country trips would later inspire Kerouac’s “On the Road.”

After his mother went completely crazy, Ginsberg seemed to embrace even more his edgy, bizarre lifestyle. One day in 1948, Allen had a vision in which William Blake appeared to him, and soon afterwards he began to claim he found God. Things altered drastically for Allen, however, when he was arrested and imprisoned for being a part of criminal activities with Burroughs and others. He pulled himself away from his delinquent lifestyle and his former friends and entered a “straight” phase. He sought mental treatment and began to date a woman, Helen Parker. He found a job as a marketing researcher and helped develop toothpaste commercials, among others. (He helped create the “Brusha-brusha-brusha!” commercial featured in a scene in the film “Grease.”)

Eventually Allen met Carl Solomon, who would become a lifetime friend, and he traveled to San Francisco and met Kenneth Rexroth, who was the founder of an emerging poetry movement there. Allen quickly became a part of the scene. Though he had previously been unknown in the poetry world, he quickly rose to popularity as a great Beat writer when he first performed “Howl” in 1955. This was followed by poems such as “Sunflower Sutra,” and as his popularity increased, Allen began to mellow in his personal life. Instead of burning out, Allen traveled extensively and discovered Buddhism, and eventually fell in love with Peter Orlovsky, who would remain a companion for 30 years. He continued to produce incredible works such as “Kaddish,” a poem about his mother’s insanity.

Once the Beat generation wore out and became cliche, Allen joined in the hippie movement and became friends with Timothy Leary. Allen continued to brush important officials the wrong way with his radical ideals and protests, managing to get kicked out of Cuba and Prague on separate occasions. He protested the Vietnam War, and his terrificly outspoken attitude was a great influence in the 1960s. He was a part of numerous major events during the revolutionary decade. He participated in Ken Kesey’s Acid Test Festivals in San Francisco, and traveled to London with several other poets and did a special reading at Royal Albert Hall in 1965, which helped spark the London underground scene. Bob Dylan said Allen was one of the few literary figures he could stand. Allen can be seen in the background of one of Dylan’s videos, “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” Allen also helped form a poetry school in Boulder, Colorado called the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poets.

These are just a few of the many social events Allen was involved in. Allen Ginsberg died on April 5, 1997.

Other works by him include:

“Siesta in Xbalba and Return to the States” (1956)
“Empty Mirror: Early Poems” (1961)
“A Strange New Cottage in Berkeley” (1963)
“Reality Sandwiches: 1953-1960” (1963)
“The Change” (1963)
“Wichita Vortex Sutra” (1966)
“TV Baby Poems” (1967)
“Airplane Dreams: Compositions From Journals” (1968)
“The Heart is a Clock” (1968)
“The Moments Return: A Poem” (1970)
“New Year Blues” (1972)
“Open Head” (1972)
“The Fall of America: Poems of These States, 1965-1971” (1973)
“Mind Breaths: Poems, 1972-1977” (1978)
“Poems All Over the Place: Mostly Seventies” (1978)
“Mostly Sitting Haiku” (1978)
“Careless Love: Two Rhymes” (1978)
“Plutonian Ode and Other Poems, 1977-1980” (1982)
‘Many Loves” (1984)
“Old Love Story” (1986)

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