Literary Birthday: Allen Ginsberg

(L-R) Lucien Carr, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs

Allen Ginsberg (born today in 1926) entered American literary infamy on the night of October 7, 1955 at a gallery in San Francisco, when he read his iconic poem “Howl” for the first time. The stage and audience included many other writers who had not quite achieve boldface status (Jack Kerouac, Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder). Ginsberg went on later in the evening, by which time the audience had been indulging for several hours (urged on by Kerouac, who described in The Dharma Bums telling everyone that “mad night” to “glug a slug from the jug”).

The reception to Ginsberg’s ecstatically exuberant Whitman-esque flight of prophetic fancy blew the doors off, with the crowd yelling (per Kerouac) “Go! Go! Go!” as though they were at some late-night bop session. City Lights publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti was in the audience as well. He published the collection Howl later that year and was promptly arrested for indecency and obscenity.

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