from: "Fields of Vision” by D.Delaney
Life and Works
Early years One of
the most provocative and prolific poetic voices of the second half of the
twentieth century, Allen Ginsberg was born in New Jersey to a Jewish father,
who himself was a poet, and a mother who was a Russian immigrant. A shadow was
cast over his childhood by his father’s fits of depression and his mother’s
schizophrenia, which caused her to spend long spells in hospitals.
The Beat Movement As
a student at Columbia
University in the 1940s, Ginsberg
became part of a circle of friends (the core of the Beat Movement) who shared a
sense of spiritual exhaustion, an appetite for drugs and feelings of rebellion
against what they viewed as society’s conformism and hypocrisy. It was in this
environment that Ginsberg started writing poetry.
Howl and Other Poems In
1953 Ginsberg moved from New York to San Francisco. He joined
the city’s vibrant literary community and in 1955 his public reading of the
poem Howl, a lengthy attack on the
stifling conservatism of American society, generated media interest. The
collection of poetry that followed, Howl and Other Poems (1956), led to a highly
publicized obscenity trial. Ginsberg had become the first writer of the Beat
Generation to make an impact on the American literary scene. He had also become
a counterculture icon.
Full poetic maturity By 1961 Ginsberg had
reached full poetic maturity and wrote what many critics consider to be his
finest work, Kaddish for Naomi Ginsberg,
an elegy in memory of his mother. Ginsberg’s style was influenced by the poetry
of Walt Whitman and the technique of ‘streem of consciousness’, which had been
widely used in fiction.
Zen Buddhism and anti-war protests Ginsberg spent most of the 1960s travelling, both in the USA and abroad.
He lived for nearly two years in India where he discovered Zen Buddhism,
which shaped the development of his poetry and his views for the rest of his
life. He became a spokesperson for the counter-culture (or hippy) revolution
and took an active role in the protest movements against the Vietnam War. He
continued writing poetry and performing his work in public. He also recorded
and occasionally toured with Bob Dylan and appeared in two of his films.
Final years In
the last twenty years of his life Ginsberg directed his energies to supporting
the legalization of marijuana and the antinuclear, environmental and gay
liberation movements. He also gave public readings in many countries, including
Russia and China, published more than fifteen volumes of
poetry and gave lectures at such prestigious academic institutions as Oxford and Harvard. He
died in 1997 of liver cancer.
External Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allen_Ginsberg