|Irwin Allen Ginsberg
June 3, 1926
Newark, New Jersey, United States
|April 5, 1997 (aged 70)
New York City, New York, United States
|poet, activist, essayist, NAMBLA activist
|Beat, New American Poets, Hippies, Postmodernism
Irwin Allen Ginsberg (June 3, 1926 – April 5, 1997) was an American poet and author. He was part of the Beat Generation movement of poets in the 1950s. He was a friend of writers Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs, and later made friends with musicians Bob Dylan, Donovan, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and many other celebrities.
Ginsberg's most famous work was called Howl. It was a long poem about the social conditions of the United States in the 1950s. It began with the words "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness." It went on to describe the frustration felt by many Americans, young people and minorities in particular. There were problems in the country, such as prejudice and intolerance, that needed to be spoken about. Ginsberg published the poem, and also performed it at public poetry readings.
A few people did not like Howl, or the graphic language Ginsberg used. They tried to have Howl banned, and they wanted Ginsberg to be prosecuted (given a court trial, then either fined or put in jail). Ginsberg went to trial, and the judge decided Howl was an important work, and told the truth about America at the time. The judge rejected the ban and cleared Ginsberg, who could then continue to publish and perform the poem.
Ginsberg became involved in social causes through his work, and through the famous people he met. He grew up in the Jewish faith, but later became a Buddhist. He was a homosexual, and his longtime partner was another poet, Peter Orlovsky. He also had a long relationship with Neal Cassady, who appeared as "N.C., secret hero of these poems" in Howl.
Death[change | change source]
Ginsberg died in 1997 of liver cancer.