June 3, 2011

Remembering Allen Ginsberg, gifted beat poet and cultural visionary

Day 154 of Vintage 365


Allen Ginsberg is a man who is nearly impossible to sum up in a few words - or even paragraphs for that matter. A brilliant poet, cultural visionary, deeply creative soul, and one of the most prominent members of the beat generation, Ginsberg was the type of person who transcended mere descriptions, preferring perhaps to be as open to interpretation as his writing.

I discovered this fascinating poet at an early age (probably in grade 4, which is when I first recall learning of the Beats, including Ginsburg's close friends Kerouac, Burroughs and Ferlinghetti), read his work extensively in my teen years, and discovered upon meeting my husband that he too was a follower of this controversial, immeasurably creative writer.

Ginsberg's work is an opus of tantalizingly thought-provoking, sometimes wacky, often sagely, nearly always entertaining poetry and other writing that captured the good, the bad, the brutal, and the often unspoken elements of a tumultuous generation.

Throughout his life Ginsberg rarely held back, opting to speak his mind in such a way as to ensure he would open and impact those of his readers and listeners (Allen often gave live readings - and made many recordings - of his work during his career).

Though the world sadly lost Allen Ginsberg in 1997, it was on this date (June 3rd) in 1926 that this fascinating, free speech promoting, iconic beat writer was born.

In celebration of his many literary and cultural contributions, I wanted to share a reading (transformed into a lovely Youtube clip featuring background photos of Allen with some of his friends and peers) that Ginsberg made of his superb poem America (which is a good contender for my favourite of all his works).

*Please note there is some adult language and subject matter in this piece and as such I do recommend one listens to it in the presence of young children.*


During his life Ginsberg came to know a great many famous people from Bob Dylan to Paul McCartney, yet I do not believe that he let these relationships - nor the fame he amassed - ever go to his head. To the very end Allen Ginsberg was a man - and writer - of the masses. He spoke up, often very expressively, for the causes he believed in and against the things he saw as injustices.

In poems like Howl and America, as well as a great many of his other visionary works, Ginsberg stepped outside the conventional realm that most poets of the day were residing in to bring a raw slice of truth to the world, which remain as meaningful and worthy of our attention today as when it was envisions and penned decades ago.

1 comment:

  1. Add this as the #5682341 thing we have in common. And reason #3210439 why I married you.