Allen Ginsberg

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Allen Ginsberg
in 1995
Allen Ginsberg signature.svg
Allen Ginsberg (left) 1978 with partner Peter Orlovsky
Allen Ginsberg (left) - Frankfurt Airport, 1978
Ginsberg with Timothy Leary and John C. Lilly , 1991

Allen Ginsberg [ ˈælən ˈgɪnzˌbɝg ] (born June 3, 1926 as Irwin Allen Ginsberg in Paterson , New Jersey , † April 5, 1997 in New York ) was an American poet of the Beat Generation .


Allen Ginsberg's parents were Naomi and Louis Ginsberg. The mother was a committed communist . She became mentally ill and died early. The father, a politically active teacher, persuaded his son to study law at Columbia University . It was there that he met Jack Kerouac , William S. Burroughs , Neal Cassady and later Harold Norse , who were to influence his work. He lived in a shared apartment with Neal Cassady and Charles Plymell in the 1960s.

In December 1954, Ginsberg met Peter Orlovsky , with whom he lived in an open relationship until his death.

His poetry was shaped by classical modernism , but also by romanticism , jazz and Buddhism and its Jewish origins. The homosexuality to which he pleaded early, be politically left to anarchist commitment and Zen , yoga and mind-altering drugs impacted on his work. Ginsberg himself also named William Blake and Walt Whitman as major influences. The most important of his mentors and patrons, however, was the poet William Carlos Williams , who helped Ginsberg decisively in finding his own poetic voice. His best-known work is the long poem Howl , which established his fame and which caused a scandal in 1956, as Ginsberg's language at the time seemed obscene to many - which led to the poem being temporarily banned and the publisher and poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti arrested. The ban led to an important campaign in the struggle for artistic freedom; eventually a judge lifted the ban.

A scandal broke out during Ginsberg's visit to Prague , where he was deported from Cuba in February 1965. In May 1965, Ginsberg and his Czech friends took part in the Majáles , a traditional student May festival that was banned annually by the communist regime for political reasons. Ginsberg was elected the traditional Majáles king there. Ginsberg was immediately arrested for alcoholism, narcomania, disturbance and propagation of homosexuality and expelled from Czechoslovakia within two days.

Ginsberg was friends with the musician Bob Dylan . Both worked together on a series of settings of a selection of Ginsberg's poems and often exchanged artistic ideas. In 1977 the two of them contributed backing vocals to a piece on Leonard Cohen's album Death of a Ladies' Man .

In later years Allen Ginsberg was a Buddhist and a student of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche , whom he met by chance in New York. He later taught at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado , which was founded by Trungpa Rinpoche. Ginsberg was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1973 and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1992.


The American avant-garde artist Bruce Conner created a portrait of Allen Ginsberg as a mixed media object in 1960 .

Allen Ginsberg can be heard as a guest vocal on the album Combat Rock by the British punk band The Clash .

Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman produced Howl , an experimental documentary film from 2010. It is based on the poem Howl and the circumstances of its publication.

In 2013, another film about the life of Ginsberg and other representatives of the Beat Generation was released with Kill Your Darlings .


  • Howl , 1956.
  • Lysergic Acid , 1959 ( online ).
  • Kaddish and Other Poems 1958-1960 . City Lights Books, San Francisco 1961.
  • Reality sandwiches . 1963.
  • Planet News 1961-1967 . City Lights Books, San Francisco 1968.
  • Empty mirror . Cornith Books, New York 1970.
  • Improvised Poetics . Anonymous Press, San Francisco 1972.
  • Mind Breaths. Poems 1972-1977 . City Lights Books, San Francisco 1977.
  • As Ever. The collected correspondence of Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady . Creative Arts Book, Berkley (California) 1977.
  • Composed on the tongue . Gray Fox Press, Bolina (California) 1980.
  • Reality Sandwiches - Photographs , edited by Michael Köhler, Nishen, Berlin 1989. ISBN 3889400434 .
  • Illuminated Poems (with Eric Drooker ). Four Walls Eight Windows, New York 1996.
  • Death & Fame. Last Poems 1993-1997 . Harper Perennial, New York 1999 (German Death & Fame . Stadtlichter Presse, Wenzendorf 2015).
  • Collected Poems 1947-1997 . HarperCollins Publishers, New York 2006.
  • Howl (with Eric Drooker). Harper Perennial, New York 2010.
  • The Complete Songs of Innocence and Experience . Omnivore Recordings, 2017.


  • Gate. Two Evenings With Allen Ginsberg Peter Orlovsky Gregory Corso Steven Taylor. Vol. 1. Songs (LOFT 1001 / Edition Zweiausendeins 1980). - LP.
  • The Lion For Real (Island Records 1989). - CD.
  • Holy Soul Jelly Roll (Rhino Records 1994). - 4 CDs with a total of 52 recordings, compiled by Hal Willner .
  • Allen Ginsberg in Wuppertal. Poems And Songs (Art Association for the Rhineland and Westphalia, Düsseldorf / Edition S Press 1998). - CD.

See also


  • Stefan Noa: “There's a lot of bastards out there!” Nationality and internationality in the works of William Carlos Williams and Allen Ginsberg . Cuvillier Verlag, Göttingen 2005, ISBN 3-86537-591-X (Dissertation University of Göttingen 2005, 349 pages, ct., 21 cm).
  • Klaus Hegemann: Allen Ginsberg: Criticism of time and political activities . Nomos, Baden-Baden 2000, ISBN 3-7890-6694-X (Dissertation University of Bonn 1999, 222 pages, 23 cm).
  • Michael Schumacher, Bernhard Schmid (translator): Allen Ginsberg. A critical biography . Hannibal Verlag, Sankt Andrä-WIERT 1999, ISBN 3-85445-163-6 .
  • Glen Burns: Great Poets Howl: a Study of Allen Ginsberg's Poetry, 1943–1955 (= European University Papers , Series 14: Anglo-Saxon Language and Literature , Volume 114), Lang, Frankfurt am Main / Bern / New York, NY 1983, ISBN 3 -8204-7761-6 (Dissertation University of Siegen 1981, XI, 528 pages, 21 cm, English).
  • Hans-Peter Rodenberg: Subversive Fantasy: Investigation of the poetry of the American counterculture 1960–1975, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder , Bob Dylan , Leonard Cohen , Jim Morrison (= Focus Wissenschaft ). Focus, Gießen 1983, ISBN 3-88349-253-1 (Dissertation TU Braunschweig, Faculty of Philosophy and Social Sciences, 1982, 219 pages, 21 cm, DNB 211328871 table of contents ).


Web links

Commons : Allen Ginsberg  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Petr Blažek, Vyhoštění krále majálesu. Allen Ginsberg a Státní bezpečnost (expulsion of the Majáles King. Allen Ginsberg and the State Security), material from the ÚSTR (Ústav pro studium totalitních režimů - Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes), online at: / ...
  2. ^ Members: Allen Ginsberg. American Academy of Arts and Letters, accessed March 31, 2019 .
  3. Bruce Conner: Portrait of Allen Ginsberg . Inventory number 96.48. (No longer available online.) Whitney Museum of American Art , 1960, archived from the original on October 28, 2013 ; Retrieved October 17, 2013 .