Allen Ginsberg

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Renowned poet, world traveler, spiritual seeker, founding member of a major literary movement, champion of human and civil rights, photographer and songwriter, political gadfly, teacher and co-founder of a poetics school. Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) defied simple classification. As a poet, he will probably be remembered most for two lengthy masterworks: “Howl”, with its famous opening line (“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness”) and relentless, rhythmic litany of lines devoted to the celebration of those minds, and “Kaddish” the powerful, heartbreaking biography of his mother, Naomi Ginsberg, who spent most of her adult life in a state of mental torment. The 1956 publication of Howl and Other Poems established Ginsberg as an important voice in American poetry. But Ginsberg would achieve international fame a year later with the highly publicized “Howl” obscenity trial in San Francisco and the publication of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road”. The life and writings of Allen Ginsberg continue to be of great interest today — long after he succumbed to liver cancer in 1997. Almost all of his books remain in print. Four books of writings and interviews have been posthumously published and new volumes of journals and correspondence are forthcoming. His poems appear regularly in anthologies around the world, and his photographs are constantly recycled in books and magazines. Universities offer Ginsberg and Beat Generation courses. Source

Excerpt from "America"

America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.

America two dollars and twentyseven cents January 17, 1956.   

I can’t stand my own mind.

America when will we end the human war?

Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb.

I don’t feel good don’t bother me.

I won’t write my poem till I’m in my right mind.

America when will you be angelic?

When will you take off your clothes?

When will you look at yourself through the grave?

When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?

America why are your libraries full of tears?

America when will you send your eggs to India?

I’m sick of your insane demands.

When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?

America after all it is you and I who are perfect not the next world.   

Your machinery is too much for me.

You made me want to be a saint.

There must be some other way to settle this argument.   

Burroughs is in Tangiers I don’t think he’ll come back it’s sinister.   

Are you being sinister or is this some form of practical joke?   

I’m trying to come to the point.

I refuse to give up my obsession.

America stop pushing I know what I’m doing.

America the plum blossoms are falling.

Published:

1956

Length:

Regular

Literary Movements:

Beat Generation

Anthology Years:

Themes:

Poems of Place

Politics

Literary Devices:

Anaphora

a figure of speech in which words repeat at the beginning of successive clauses, phrases, or sentences

Personification

the attribution of human qualities to a non-human thing

Rhetorical Question

a question asked for effect, not necessarily to be answered