Short Biography of Allen Ginsberg

Ginsberg was born in June 3, 1926 in Newark, New Jersey. He met his most important creative collaborators in 1943, while studying at Columbia University; William S Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, and the three formed the centre of the Beat Generation. The beat generation of poets spoke actively against the conventional ideas of American life and culture. The term beat, is a name that evokes the idea of a sound after periods of lulling down and certain weariness that has occurred. They wrote in unrestricted, unbounded styles that represented their true emotions instead of being burdened by structure of life and of poetry. Allen Ginsberg described this method of creation, spontaneous writing. Beat poets attempted to create art without being perturbed by the voice of the dominant. “First thought, best thought”, was their principle and they attempted to avoid filters on their writing.

The beat generation writers have strong dissenting voice and some of their themes included, criticism of capitalism, sexual liberation, eastern philosophy and religion, experiments with hallucinogenic drugs and natural principles of mankind. They were inspired from various artists and art forms like jazz musicians, metaphysical group of poets, surrealists, poets like as William Blake that focused on Eastern philosophy, and Zen poetry.

Beat writers were extremely disillusioned with everything that followed the Second World War. It was a time of unimaginable destruction and despair; the atrocities of the holocaust and the use of nuclear weapons against Japan were some of the reasons of their resentment with the powerful. The beginning of the cold war between the United States of America and the Soviet Union immediately after the Second World War divided the world into two political wings and created an air of political superiority of capitalism in America, it was also ensured to silence all voices of dissent.

Personally too, he actively wrote against commercialism, materialism, lack of sexual autonomy, arms race, military expansion, and such other problematic political issues. His views almost initiated a counterculture that was followed by a lot of people who had similar sentiments on governmental atrocities. Ginsberg’s magnum opus is the poem Howl in which he openly expressed his disagreements with the capitalistic and consumerist force and also criticized America for following this model of progress that was only concerned with minting money. Howl was not accepted by the government authorities and it was seized in 1956 by the police, it also later in 1957 became the subject of an obscenity trial because of its vivid descriptions of homosexual love since this was at a time when homosexuality was a crime by law. The poem also points out to Ginsberg’s own sexual preferences and his relationships with a number of men, including Peter Orlovsky who was his long time partner. Judge Clayton W. Horn made the decision that Howl was not obscene and stated: “Would there be any freedom of press or speech if one must reduce his vocabulary to vapid innocuous euphemisms?”

Ginsberg actively participated in many a political protests and upheavals over years of being active, including the Vietnam War, the Capitalistic Rush, Arms Race, the Imperial Politics and the War on Drugs. The poem September on Jessore Road had an important political theme as it called attention to the plight of Bengali refugees caused by 1971 Genocide. Ginsberg in his active political and artistic career gave the readers many a gem that are remembered even today for their strong voice and for highlighting the capacity of a single voice in bringing about a change against the powerful.

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