Have you ever spent time with a book you loved so much, you didn’t want it to end? I started to slow down my pace with Just Kids, Patti Smith’s recollection of her time with Robert Mapplethorpe, when they were young, inseparable, perfectly bohemian, & completely unknown, just to have it linger. Smith recounts how when a couple of tourists in Washington Square Park spotted them on an autumn day in1967 & argued if they warranted a snapshot. The woman thought they looked like artists. The man dismissed: “They’re just kids.”
Smith & Mapplethorpe walk through a snow storm to Times Square on New Year's Eve 1969 & witness a huge John & Yoko peace billboard. Later, on her own, she runs into Allen Ginsberg at the automat, where he helps her buy a sandwich after mistaking her for a boy. They became lifelong friends & he was a profound influence on her work & future.
Ginsberg photograph by William S Burroughs
Irwin Allen Ginsberg was born on this day- June 3rd in1926. Like Patti Smith, he was raised in New Jersey. His father, Louis, was a successful poet who walked around the house reciting poetry. His mother suffered from paranoia & was in & out of mental hospitals. 3 years after her death in 1958, Ginsberg wrote Kaddish for Naomi Ginsberg.
Allen Ginsberg was a social revolutionary, a protest poet & a longtime & committed activist. He beat the drum for the Beat movement, lauding nonconformity & new kind of poetry. Ginsberg’s works captured this anti-establishment groundswell & helped serve social change.
Ginsberg was tried & acquitted of obscenity charges related to his most celebrated poem 1956’s- Howl’s homoerotic content. A judge found that the poem had "redeeming social importance. Howl became a reference case for free speech cases in the1960s & 1970s.
Ginsberg gave us the term "flower power," which encouraged protesters to engage in nonviolent rebellion. He was kicked out of Cuba for saying Che Guevara was "cute”. His frank writing about homosexuality made an important contribution to gay rights.
“America I'm putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.”
In 1954, Ginsberg met the man who would become his life partner, Peter Orlovsky. Orlovsky was an American poet & experienced the mental illness of a family member. The relationship lasted 43 years, until Ginsberg’s death in 1997.
Ginsberg received: the National Book Award, a Robert Frost Medal for distinguished poetic achievement & an American Book Award for contributions to literary excellence. In 1993, the French minister of culture awarded Ginsberg the Order of Arts & Letters.