It’s the birthday of Jersey poet Allen Ginsberg , born in Newark, New Jersey in 1926 and raised in Paterson.
His family were Russian-Jewish immigrants; his father was a high school teacher and a poet, but his mother struggled with mental illness her entire life.
At Columbia University, he fell in with a group of poets and artists that included Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, and William S. Burroughs. They read poetry to each other and took drugs and had all-night conversations, and sometime in the late ’40s, they started calling themselves “Beats.”
When Ginsberg was 26 years old, he was sitting in his apartment in Harlem when he suddenly had a vision of William Blake. He called it “a sudden awakening into a totally deeper real universe than I’d been existing in.”
But before Ginsberg was convinced he wanted to be a poet after he graduated from Columbia, he worked as an apprentice book reviewer for Newsweek magazine and for an advertising agency in NYC.
In 1955, he moved to San Francisco, where he became part of the poetry scene that included Gary Snyder and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. In October of that year, he read his poem “Howl” at the Six Gallery in San Francisco. It was a huge success, and it launched a writing career that lasted more than years.
"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 night …"