Allen Ginsberg

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Irwin Allen Ginsberg (3 June 19265 April 1997) was an American Beat poet born in Newark, New Jersey. He was a central figure among Beat Generation writers. Ginsberg is best known for "Howl", a long poem about consumer society's negative human values.


America I'm putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.
1. You can't win. 2. You can't break even. 3. You can't even get out of the game.
  • The war is language,
    language abused
    for Advertisement,
    language used
    like magic for power on the planet.
    • From Wichita Vortex Sutra (1966)
  • The only thing that can save the world is the reclaiming of the awareness of the world. That's what poetry does. By poetry I mean the imagining of what has been lost and what can be found—the imagining of who we are and the slow realization of it.
    • As quoted in C. F. Main & Peter J. Seng, Poems (Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1973), p. 3

Howl (1956)[edit]

  • I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
    dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix
    angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of the night.

America (1956)[edit]

  • America I'm putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.
  • America I've given you all and now I'm nothing.
  • I smoke marijuana every chance I get.

Hadda be Playin' on a Jukebox[edit]

  • The CIA and the Mafia are in cahoots
    • Hadda be Playin' on a Jukebox (1975).

Journals: Early Fifties Early Sixties[edit]

  • I could issue manifestos summoning seraphim to revolt against the Heavenly State we're in, or trumpets to summon American mankind to rebellion against the Authority which has frozen all skulls in the cold war, That is, I could, make sense, invoke politics and try organize a union of opinion about what to do to Cuba, China, Russia, Bolivia, New Jersey, etc. However since in America the folks are convinced their heaven is all right, those manifestos make no dent except in giving authority & courage to the small band of hipsters who are disaffected like gentle socialists. Meanwhile the masses the proletariat the people are smug and the source of the great Wrong. So the means then is to communicate to the grand majority- and say I or anybody did write a balanced documented account not only of the lives of America but the basic theoretical split from the human body as Reich has done- But the people are so entrenched in their present livelihood that all the facts in the world-such as that China will be 1/4 of world pop makes no impression at all as a national political fact that intelligent people can take counsel on and deal with humorously & with magnificence. So that my task as a politician is to dynamite the emotional rockbed of inertia and spiritual deadness that hangs over the cities and makes everybody unconsciously afraid of the cops- To enter the Soul on a personal level and shake the emotion with the Image of some giant reality-of any kind however irrelevant to transient political issue- to touch & wake the soul again- That soul which is asleep or hidden in armor or unable to manifest itself as free life of God on earth- To remind by chord of deep groan of the Unknown to most Soul- then further politics will take place when people seize power over their universe and end the long dependence on an external authority or rhetorical set sociable emotions-so fixed they don't admit basic personal life changes-like not being afraid of jails and penury, while wandering thru gardens in high civilization.
    • Gordon Ball (1977), Journals: Early Fifties Early Sixties, Grove Press NY

Great Poets Howl[edit]

  • Nobody knows whether we were catalysts or invented something, or just the froth riding on a wave of its own. We were all three, I suppose.
    • Glen Burns (1983), Great Poets Howl: A Study of Allen Ginsberg's Poetry, 1943-1955, Peter Lang GmbH, ISBN 3-8204-7761-6.

Family Business[edit]

  • You assume we are all sexually stable; while on the other hand, as I have become acquainted with people, I find that they are all perverted sinners, one way or another, that the whole society is corrupt and rotten and repressed and unconscious that it exhibits its repression in various forms of social sadism.
    • Family Business: Selected Letters Between a Father and Son, Allen and Louis Ginsberg (1944-1976), Michael Schumacher (ed.) (2001), Bloomsbury Publishing NY, ISBN 1582341079, p. 21.


Ginsberg's theorem[edit]

About Ginsberg[edit]

  • Of the Beat triumvirate, Kerouac was probably both the most pathetic and least noxious. Psychologically, he was a mess—as indeed were Ginsberg and Burroughs. But, unlike them, Kerouac lacked the knack of sanctifying his pathologies and inducing others to bow down in obeisance.
    • Roger Kimball, "A gospel of emancipation", The New Criterion, October 1997

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