Irwin Allen Ginsberg (1926 - 1997) was an American poet and writer. As a student at Columbia University in the 1940s, he began friendships with Lucien Carr, William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, forming the core of the Beat Generation. He vigorously opposed militarism, economic materialism, and sexual freedom, multiculturalism, hostility to bureaucracy and openness to Eastern religions.
Best known for his poem "Howl", Ginsberg denounced what he saw as the destructive forces of capitalism and conformity in the United States. San Francisco police and US Customs seized copies of "Howl" in 1956, and a subsequent obscenity trial in 1957 attracted widespread publicity due to the poem's language and descriptions of heterosexual and homosexual sex at a time when sodomy laws made (male) homosexual acts a crime in every state. The poem reflected Ginsberg's own sexuality and his relationships with a number of men, including Peter Orlovsky, his lifelong partner. Judge Clayton W. Horn ruled that "Howl" was not obscene, asking, "Would there be any freedom of press or speech if one must reduce his vocabulary to vapid innocuous euphemisms?"
Ginsberg was a Buddhist who extensively studied Eastern religious disciplines. He lived modestly, buying his clothing in second-hand stores and residing in apartments in New York City's East Village. One of his most influential teachers was Tibetan Buddhist Chögyam Trungpa, the founder of the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado.
For decades, Ginsberg was active in political protests across a range of issues from the Vietnam War to the war on drugs. His poem "September on Jessore Road" drew attention to refugees fleeing the 1971 Bangladeshi genocide exemplifying what literary critic Helen Vendler described as Ginsberg's persistent opposition to "imperial politics" and the "persecution of the powerless”. His collection The Fall of America shared the annual National Book Award for Poetry in 1974. In 1979, he received the National Arts Club gold medal and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1995 for his book Cosmopolitan Greetings: Poems 1986-1992.
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