Allen was known for being outspoken about the right to love whom we choose, the right to wage peace, the right to be different and the right to write openly about it all. Sometimes his antics and activism overshadowed his poetry. [...] What endures, though, is that Allen Ginsberg was a serious and talented poet. He wrote verse from childhood until a few days before his death. He published over 20 volumes of poetry and received many accolades, including a National Book Award.
Alien Ginsberg's poem "Howl, " published in 1956, caused such a controversy that it was the subject of an obscenity trial. Having received the court 's "approval, " it went on to become one of the most widely read and translated poems of the century.
Ginsberg's dissatisfaction with America during the 1950s prompted his jeremiads, laments, "Howls." When his macabre humor could surface, as it does in "A Supermarket in California," he shows the balance that clear vision can create. His idealism about his country marks much of his work, which is in many ways much less "personal" than it at first seems.
Ginsberg began a life of ceaseless travel, reading his poetry at campuses and coffee bars, traveling abroad, and engaging in left-wing political activities. Empty Mirror, Kaddish and Other Poems and Reality Sandwiches were all published in the early 1960s. He became an influential guru of the American youth counterculture in the late 1960s. He acquired a deeper knowledge of Buddhism, and increasingly a religious element of love for all sentient beings entered his work.
Of the most significant poets of this century, because he wrote so much, he might be among the most uneven, though he admitted that all the talk about leaving his poems unrevised, or writing on drugs, was never quite true, that he actually worked very hard on his revisions, and that he kept only a few experimental or drug-induced first drafts intact. Of course, he found, or created, an astonishing new language very early on -- an idiosyncratic (though widely imitated -- and still imitated) mixture of syntax both utterly free, even rambling, and concentrated, condensed, abbreviated, telescoped. There's a general impression that after his first handful of books the quality of his writing fell off. But many of his later poems, like "White Shroud" and "Salutations to Fernando Pessoa" (which ends "Pessoa Schmessoa") are among his very best.
Allen Ginsberg, poet, social activist and member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, also engaged the attention of the FBI recordkeepers. "I have a stack of documents three feet high," the . . . poet said, and showed me a sampling of them. He has devoted much of his time to challenging the government on issues of privacy and personal freedom - including sexual preference - and arousing his fellow writers to campaign for freedom of expression.
A self-proclaimed “poet as priest” whose congregation was his country’s citizenry, Ginsberg never lost sight of his initial vision of a cosmos where the full range of human possibility can be made manifest through the unrestricted explora- tions of the mind and body. In opposition to the evils of the modern age, Ginsberg tried to create a kingdom of love leading toward a utopian universe that is alive in his poetry.
Strictly speaking, a man of letters is not someone who has written a lot of letters but rather someone who is actively engaged in the literary and intellectual world. Allen Ginsberg was both. Wherever he was, whatever he was doing, he did it with paper and pen nearby. At any moment he might write a poem, make a noteworthy entry, or pen a letter to a friend. After seventy years, he left behind an enormous depository of documents to study.
It took nearly a decade for the brave Beat Generation to flower in this hostile environment. From the late 1940s to the mid-1950s, the Beats were under wraps. Ginsberg was closer to T.S. Eliot and to W.H. Auden than he was to William Carlos Williams and Walt Whitman.
Ginsberg has always been interested in politics. His mother too her child to political meetings as other mothers might take theirs to the seashore or the park. At age thirty-two, as Pul Berman remarks, he traveled to India on a spiritual quest, "only to find himself on shipboard daydreaming about forming a new political party to oppose Adlai Stevenson." He has been the object of surveillance by the government in this country and of actual harassment in others.
Ginsberg questioned the seriousness of his own Buddhist commitment, often describing himself as a "flaky Buddhist"; those around him, from well-known Beat colleagues to his students apprentices, did much the same.
Allen Ginsberg must surely be one of the most prolific writers of our times. He has been widely published and is a generous contributor to underground magazines and small press anthologies. […] His active support of any causes over the years has lent itself to publication of numerous position papers, petitions and open letters, most of which are uncollected. The subject range of publications is vast fro a single author, from Buddhist studies to drug research to gay rights issues to tireless support of fellow writers.