I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed byOne contribution that is often considered his most significant and most controversial was his openness about homosexuality. Ginsberg was an early proponent of freedom for gay people. In 1943, he discovered within himself "mountains of homosexuality." He expressed this desire openly and graphically in his poetry. He also struck a note for gay marriage by listing Peter Orlovsky, his lifelong companion, as his spouse in his Who's Who entry. Subsequent gay writers saw his frank talk about homosexuality as an opening to speak more openly and honestly about something often before only hinted at or spoken of in metaphor.
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix...
©Herbert Rusche. Allen Ginsberg with partner Peter Orlovski, Frankfurt Airport, 1978 (©17)
Peter Orlovsky was in a lifelong openly gay relationship with Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg. One contribution that is often considered Allen Ginsberg's most significant and most controversial was his openness about homosexuality. In 1943, he discovered within himself "mountains of homosexuality." He expressed this desire openly and graphically in his poetry. He also struck a note for gay marriage by listing Peter Orlovsky, his lifelong companion, as his spouse in his Who's Who entry.
In October 1955, Ginsberg and five other unknown poets gave a free reading at an experimental art gallery in San Francisco. Ginsberg's "Howl" electrified the audience. According to fellow poet Michael McClure, it was clear "that a barrier had been broken, that a human voice and body had been hurled against the harsh wall of America and its supporting armies and navies and academies and institutions and ownership systems and power support bases." In 1957, "Howl" attracted widespread publicity when it became the subject of an obscenity trial in which a San Francisco prosecutor argued it contained "filthy, vulgar, obscene, and disgusting language." The poem seemed especially outrageous in 1950s America because it depicted both heterosexual and homosexual sex at a time when sodomy laws made homosexual acts a crime in every U.S. state. "Howl" reflected Ginsberg's own homosexuality and his relationships with a number of men, including Peter Orlovsky, his lifelong partner. Judge Clayton W. Horn ruled that "Howl" was not obscene, adding, "Would there be any freedom of press or speech if one must reduce his vocabulary to vapid innocuous euphemisms?"
In "Howl" and in his other poetry, Ginsberg drew inspiration from the epic, free verse style of the 19th century American poet Walt Whitman. Both wrote passionately about the promise (and betrayal) of American democracy, the central importance of erotic experience, and the spiritual quest for the truth of everyday existence. J. D. McClatchy, editor of the Yale Review called Ginsberg "the best-known American poet of his generation, as much a social force as a literary phenomenon." McClatchy added that Ginsberg, like Whitman, "was a bard in the old manner – outsized, darkly prophetic, part exuberance, part prayer, part rant. His work is finally a history of our era's psyche, with all its contradictory urges."
Ginsberg was a practicing Buddhist who studied Eastern religious disciplines extensively. One of his most influential teachers was the Tibetan Buddhist, the Venerable Chögyam Trungpa, founder of the Naropa Institute, now Naropa University at Boulder, Colorado. At Trungpa's urging, Ginsberg and poet Anne Waldman started a poetry school there in 1974 which they called the "Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics". In spite of his attraction to Eastern religions, the journalist Jane Kramer argues that Ginsberg, like Whitman, adhered to an "American brand of mysticism" that was, in her words, "rooted in humanism and in a romantic and visionary ideal of harmony among men." Ginsberg's political activism was consistent with his religious beliefs. He took part in decades of non-violent political protest against everything from the Vietnam War to the War on Drugs. The literary critic, Helen Vendler, described Ginsberg as "tirelessly persistent in protesting censorship, imperial politics, and persecution of the powerless." His achievements as a writer as well as his notoriety as an activist gained him honors from established institutions. Ginsberg's book of poems, The Fall of America, won the National Book Award for poetry in 1974. Other honors included the National Arts Club gold medal and his induction into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, both in 1979. Ginsberg was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1995 for his book, Cosmopolitan Greetings: Poems 1986–1992.
Ginsberg won the National Book Award for his book The Fall of America. In 1993, the French Minister of Culture awarded him the medal of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres (the Knight of Arts and Letters).
With the exception of a special guest appearance at the NYU Poetry Slam on February 20, 1997, Ginsberg gave what is thought to be his last reading at The Booksmith in San Francisco on December 16, 1996. He died April 5, 1997, surrounded by family and friends in his East Village loft in New York City, succumbing to liver cancer via complications of hepatitis. He was 70 years old. Ginsberg continued to write through his final illness, with his last poem, "Things I'll Not Do (Nostalgias)", written on March 30.
Ginsberg is buried in his family plot in Gomel Chesed Cemetery.
In writing about sexuality in graphic detail and in his frequent use of language seen as indecent, he challenged—and ultimately changed—obscenity laws. He was a staunch supporter of others whose expression challenged obscenity laws (William S. Burroughs and Lenny Bruce, for example).
Burial: Gomel Chesed Cemetery, Newark, Essex County, New Jersey, USA. Plot: through third gate on left side, in back
Allen Ginsberg with his own portrait of Burroughs - N.Y.C, 1986, by Robert Giard (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl/oneITEM.asp?pid=2020298&iid=1081951&srchtype=)
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digitallibrary/giard.html)
Peter Anton Orlovsky (July 8, 1933 – May 30, 2010) was an American poet. Orlovsky was in a lifelong openly gay relationship with Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg.
Orlovsky was born in the Lower East Side of New York City, the son of Katherine (née Schwarten) and Oleg Orlovsky, a Russian immigrant. He was raised in poverty and was forced to drop out of Newtown High School in his senior year so he could support his impoverished family. After many odd jobs, he began working as an orderly at Creedmoor State Mental Hospital, known today as Creedmoor Psychiatric Center.
In 1953 Orlovsky was drafted into the United States Army for the Korean War at the age of 19. Army psychiatrists ordered his transfer off the front to work as a medic in a San Francisco hospital.
He met Ginsberg while working as a model for the painter Robert La Vigne in San Francisco in December 1954. Prior to meeting Ginsberg, Orlovsky had made no deliberate attempts at becoming a poet.
With Ginsberg's encouragement, Orlovsky began writing in 1957 while the pair were living in Paris. Accompanied by other beat writers, Orlovsky traveled extensively for several years throughout the Middle East, Northern Africa, India, and Europe. Orlovsky was Ginsberg's lover in an open relationship until Ginsberg's death in 1997.
In 1974, Orlovsky joined the faculty of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, teaching poetry. In 1979 he received a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to continue his creative endeavors.
In May 2010, friends reported that Orlovsky, who had been battling lung cancer for several months, was moved from his home in St. Johnsbury, Vermont to the Vermont Respite House in Williston. He died there on May 30, 2010, age 76.
Dear Allen, Ship will land Jan 23, 58 (1971)
Lepers Cry (1972)
Clean Asshole Poems & Smiling Vegetable Songs (1978) (reprinted 1992)
Straight Hearts' Delight: Love Poems and Selected Letters (with Allen Ginsberg) (1980)
Dick Tracy's Gelber Hut und andere Gedichte (German translation) (1984)
His work has also appeared in The New American Poetry 1945–1960 (1960), The Beatitude Anthology (1965), as well as the literary magazines Yugen and Outsider. Orlovsky appeared in three films: Andy Warhol's Couch (1965) and in two films by photographer Robert Frank, Me and My Brother (1969) (a film documenting his brother Julius Orlovsky's mental illness) and One Hour (C'est Vrai) (a 60 minute one-take video made for French television in 1992).
Burial: Non-Cemetery Burial, he is interred at the Shambhala Mountain Center, Red Feather Lakes, Colorado (His epitaph reads "Train will tug my grave, my breath hueing gentil vapor between weel & track")
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
Amazon: Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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