Allen Ginsberg biography

Allen Ginsberg

Spoken word, Author

1926 – 1997


Who was Allen Ginsberg?

Irwin Allen Ginsberg was an American poet and one of the leading figures of both the Beat Generation of the 1950s and the counterculture that soon would follow. He vigorously opposed militarism, economic materialism and sexual repression. Ginsberg is best known for his epic poem "Howl", in which he denounced what he saw as the destructive forces of capitalism and conformity in the United States.

In 1957, "Howl" attracted widespread publicity when it became the subject of an obscenity trial, as it depicted heterosexual and homosexual sex at a time when sodomy laws made homosexual acts a crime in every U.S. state. "Howl" reflected Ginsberg's own homosexuality and his relationships with a number of men, including Peter Orlovsky, his lifelong partner. Judge Clayton W. Horn ruled that "Howl" was not obscene, adding, "Would there be any freedom of press or speech if one must reduce his vocabulary to vapid innocuous euphemisms?"

Ginsberg was a practicing Buddhist who studied Eastern religious disciplines extensively. He lived modestly, buying his clothing in second-hand stores and residing in downscale apartments in New York’s East Village. One of his most influential teachers was the Tibetan Buddhist, the Venerable Chögyam Trungpa, founder of the Naropa Institute, now Naropa University at Boulder, Colorado. At Trungpa's urging, Ginsberg and poet Anne Waldman started The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics there in 1974.

Famous Quotes:

  • Fortunately art is a community effort --a small but select community living in a spiritualized world endeavoring to interpret the wars and the solitudes of the flesh.
  • I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked.
  • I have a new method of poetry. All you got to do is look over your notebooks... or lay down on a couch, and think of anything that comes into your head, especially the miseries. Then arrange in lines of two, three or four words each, don't bother about sentences, in sections of two, three or four lines each.
  • My own experience is that a certain kind of genius among students is best brought out in bed.
  • Poetry is not an expression of the party line. It's that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that's what the poet does.
  • Democracy! Bah! When I hear that word I reach for my feather Boa!
  • It isn't enough for your heart to break because everybody's heart is broken now.
  • No monster vibration, no snake universe hallucinations. Many tiny jeweled violet flowers along the path of a living brook that looked like Blake's illustration for a canal in grassy Eden: huge Pacific watery shore, Orlovsky dancing naked like Shiva long-haired before giant green waves, titanic cliffs that Wordsworth mentioned in his own Sublime, great yellow sun veiled with mist hanging over the planet's oceanic horizon. No harm.
  • America I'm putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.
  • Nobody saves America by sniffing cocaine, jiggling your knees blankly in the rain, when it snows in your nose you catch cold in your brain.


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"Allen Ginsberg." STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 12 Jun 2021. <>.

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Jun 3, 1926
Also known as
  • Alan Ginsberg
  • Irwin Allen Ginsberg
  • Rabbi Buddha Ginsburg
  • Rabbi Buddha Whitman
  • Rabbi Buddha Whitman/Ginsburg
  • Buddhism
  • Judaism
  • Ashkenazi Jews
  • Jewish American
  • Jewish people
  • United States of America
  • Columbia College of Columbia University in the City of New York
  • Columbia University
  • Montclair State University
  • Eastside High School
Lived in
  • Newark
  • Boulder
  • Paterson
  • New York City
Apr 5, 1997
New York City

on July 23, 2013

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