Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs 1991 conversation
Who was Allen Ginsberg?
(Dig in and find out.)
a founder of the beat generation
Arriving in New York City in 1944 to study at Columbia University, young Allen Ginsberg formed a close friendship with then-unknowns Jack Kerouac, Jack’s friend Neal Cassady and two legendary Times Square junkie outlaws, wise from their time on the streets, William S Burroughs and Herbert Huncke. These relationships eventually flowered into the original literary movement known as the Beat Generation.
a modern american poet
Ginsberg’s groundbreaking performance of “Howl” in 1955 in San Francisco began an epic career that would eventually place this poet in the lineage of his hero and great “courage teacher” Walt Whitman and advance (following upon the work of Edgar Allan Poe, Hart Crane, Ezra Pound and, most notably, William Carlos Williams) the development of a specifically American vernacular in poetry.
an international poet
New Jersey-born Allen Ginsberg reached far beyond the American tradition with his vibrant life in poetry, bridging literary connections with past and present, recognizing the inter-relatedness of poetry and poetics from around the world.
Read more about: Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Verlaine, Guillaume Apollinaire, Andre Breton, Antonin Artaud, Henri Michaux, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Basil Bunting, W.H. Auden, W. B. Yeats, Dylan Thomas, Federico Garcia Lorca, Pablo Neruda, Fernando Pessoa, Nanao Sakaki, Anna Akhmatova, Osip Mandelstam, Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Vladimir Mayakovsky.
a radical activist
Allen Ginsberg was an outspoken voice for human rights, gay liberation, freedom of speech and ecology. The most politically-engaged poet of the 20th century, he protested against the Vietnam War, nuclear weapons, sexual repression, censorship, corporate abuses, draconian drug laws, the FBI and the CIA, and spoke out for a new vision of peaceful coexistence that helped define the ideals of the 1960s and beyond.
a global provocateur
Allen Ginsberg made big waves on the global stage from the 1960s until his death in 1997. He visited Cuba at the height of US/Cuba tensions and was crowned Kral Majales (King of May) in Prague during a key moment of the Soviet Union/Czech crisis, in 1967. Throughout his life, he championed dissidents and victims of persecution wherever and whenever he encountered them.
a teacher and scholar
Allen Ginsberg taught at Naropa University and at Brooklyn College, where he pursued intellectual interests and delivered fascinating and original lectures on a surprising variety of literary topics. Many of these lectures are transcribed in full on this website.
a spiritual thinker
A focus on spirituality and religion has been a unique aspect of the work of Allen Ginsberg, from the Judaism of his heritage to the Hinduism (Hare Krishna) discovered in his classic sojourn in India, to the Zen, and subsequently Tibetan, Buddhism and Meditation practice that he later became devoted to.
a musician, artist and photographer
As a singer, songwriter and performing artist, Allen Ginsberg collaborated with, performed with, or was inspired by, a wide range of musicians, in a number of genres, among them David Amram, Bob Dylan, Patti Smith and Philip Glass.