Allen GinsbergAshes & Blues

Brief Biography

Allen Ginsberg, b. Newark, N.J., June 3, 1926, is an American poet and leading apostle of the beat generation. His first published work, Howl and Other Poems (1956), sparked the San Francisco Renaissance and defined the generation of the '50s with an authority and vision that had not occurred in the United States since T. S. Eliot captured the anxiety of the 1920s in The Waste Land. Ginsberg's bardic rage against material values, however, was in a voice very different from Eliot's scholarly mourning for the loss of the spirit. In his second major work, Kaddish (1961), a poem on the anniversary of his mother's death, Ginsberg described their anguished relationship. In the 1960s, while vigorously participating in the anti-Vietnam War movement, he published several poetic works, including Reality Sandwiches (1963) and Planet News (1969). The Fall of America received the National Book Award for 1974. Collected Poems, 1947-85 (1995) contains all of his important work; White Shroud (1987) includes poems from the 1980s. Ginsberg sees himself as a part of the prophetic tradition in poetry begun by William Blake and continued by Walt Whitman. He names his contemporary influences as William Carlos Williams and his friend Jack Kerouac.

John Tytell

Text Copyright © 1996 Grolier Incorporated

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