Allen Ginsberg an "unholy beard," Beat poet and hat patriot
Allen Ginsberg's early life was the proverbial barrel-of-laughs. Born in New Jersey Ginsberg's mother was affected by a rare psycholological disease which was never properly diagnosed. As a result she would often wander around the house naked and would later slit her wrists in a failed attempt at suicide. To add to the generally wholesome and perfectly stable youth of the future Beat poet it was the young Allen himself who signed the papers which led to his mother being lobotomised. Oh how he laughed when he realised it had turned his mother into a vegetable. He would later write a single entry in his diary "Allen, don't die."
Clearly the scars of this ran pretty deep. So obvously the young Ginsberg would seek out emotionally balanced perfectly respectable pillars of society as he grew into an upstanding citizen himself. Or not.
Ginsberg's core group of friends for the rest of his life he would meet while attending Columbia University. People like the alcoholic occassionally anti-semetic homophobe Jack Kerouac, hopeless junkie William Burroughs and the perfectly law-abiding Lucien Carr, well, except for that guy he murdered. These would be core members of the Beat generation, a group of poetic perverts. Well at least by regular folk's standards.
Anti-semitic homophobe Jack Kerouac's best friend was a gay Jew. Go figure
Ginsberg's most famous poem is "Howl". You know the one which starts out with the line "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness" and in fairness poor old Allen would know. The poem was dedicated to Carl Solomon another one of his friends who was not quite sanity personified and was first read in public at the Six Gallery reading in San Franciso in 1955 which featured all sorts of drinking and poetry related shenanigans and would go down as a seminal moment in literary history bringing both East and West Coast Beats together.
The poem was also subject to a landmark obscenity trial. The prosecution claiming it had no artistic merit because it had a few swear words in it and mentioned "cock" and "balls" a few times. The defence won the case and the world was free to revel in a progressively less artistically oppressed world. Poets could freely pursue their artistic muse while celebrities could release poor quality sex tapes and make money off it.
"Howl" was a direct inspiration for "One Night in Paris." Probably.
The trial brought Ginsberg a level of fame he never would have received without it much like how the mob who directly abused Rebecca Black brought her a level of fame her musical talent never would have. Over the ensuing years Ginsberg's other friends like Kerouac and Burroughs got published and a new generation of literary giants was born.
"Friday" this generation's "Howl?" Think about it.
Arguably his greatest poem, however, was "Kaddish: for Naomi Ginsberg", a wonderful ode to his mother which features some only slightly unnerving lines about her vagina.
In later life Ginsberg attempted to become something of a rock star despite the fact he wasn't much of a musician and couldn't really sing, though, in fairness, that's never stopped Lou Reed. Always the star whore he worked with people like Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan and wrote some pretty out there stuff that Captain Beefheart would surely have approved of.
Beefheart contemplates making music with Hoovers. Then later does so.
He died in 1997 having started the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics some years ago in honour of his long dead friend.
The school continues to this day, while "Howl" was recently made into a film starring James Franco as Allen, a choice the poet's raging libido would surely have approved of.