Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997)

Death: 5th April 1997
Location: Gomel Chesed Cemetery, Newark, Essex County, New Jersey, United States
Cause of death: Liver cancer / Complications of hepatitis
Photo taken by: slopoet
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American poet and one of the leading figures of the Beat Generation in the 1950s. Ginsberg is best known for his epic poem Howl, in which he celebrated his fellow "angel-headed hipsters" and harshly denounced what he saw as the destructive forces of capitalism and conformity in the United States.
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 homosexual acts were 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. 
Though early on he had intentions to be a labour lawyer, Ginsberg wrote poetry for most of his life. Most of his very early poetry was written in formal rhyme and meter like that of his idol William Blake. His admiration for the writing of Jack Kerouac inspired him to take poetry more seriously. Though he took odd jobs to support himself, in 1955, upon the advice of a psychiatrist, Ginsberg dropped out of the working world to devote his entire life to poetry. Soon after, he wrote Howl, the poem that brought him and his friends much fame and allowed him to live as a professional poet for the rest of his life. Later in life, Ginsberg entered academia, teaching poetry as Distinguished Professor of English at Brooklyn College from 1986 until his death. 
Ginsberg's poetry was strongly influenced by Modernism (most importantly the American style of Modernism pioneered by William Carlos Williams), Romanticism (specifically William Blake and John Keats) and the beat and cadence of jazz. In Howl, and in his other poetry, Ginsberg drew inspiration from the epic, free verse style of the 19th-century American poet Walt Whitman
Though the term "Beat" is most accurately applied to Ginsberg and his closest friends (Gregory Corso, Peter Orlovsky, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs etc.), the term "Beat Generation" has become associated with many of the other poets Ginsberg met and became friends with in the late 1950s and early 1960s. A key feature of this term seems to be a friendship with Ginsberg. Friendship with Kerouac or Burroughs might also apply, but both writers later strove to disassociate themselves from the name "Beat Generation." Part of their dissatisfaction with the term came from the mistaken identification of Ginsberg as the leader. Ginsberg never claimed to be the leader of a movement.