Archival Collections
Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Allen Ginsberg papers, 1943-1991 [Bulk Dates: 1945-1976] 

Creator: 
Ginsberg, Allen, 1926-1997.
Phys. Desc: 
11.25 linear ft. ( 26 boxes & 1 oversized document box)
Call Number: 
MS#0487
Location: 
Rare Book & Manuscript Library
View CLIO Record and Request Material >>

Online information

Biographical Note

Allen Ginsberg, born Irwin Allen Ginsberg, grew up in Paterson New Jersey with his parents, Louis and Naomi Ginsberg and his brother Eugene Brooks. Both of Allen's parents were to be major influences on him and his work-- his father, a poet and high school English teacher, was one of his earliest and most constant readers and critics. His mother's mental illness would profoundly affect Ginsberg as well, though in a very different way, ultimately inspiring Ginsberg's poem "Kaddish: for Naomi Ginsberg 1894-1956." Ginsberg left Paterson for New York City when he was accepted to Columbia University as an undergraduate. He entered University in the Fall of 1943 and soon met fellow Columbia student, Lucien Carr who would introduce Ginsberg to Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs. This group of friends would form the nucleus of the Beat Generation. Though a brilliant student, Ginsberg was expelled from Columbia in 1945 for scrawling an obscenity on his window and for engaging in homosexual sex. He did, however, return to the University the next year and completed his BA in 1948. After Ginsberg's graduation he remained in New York City and his apartment became a meeting place and crash pad for his group of friends, including Herbert Huncke-- a drug addict, petty thief, and Times Square habitue. When the apartment was busted containing Huncke's stolen goods, Huncke took the jail time, but Ginsberg was still implicated. Rather than go to jail, Ginsberg plead that he was psychologically unfit to stand trial and was sent to the Columbia Psychiatric Institute for an eight month sentence. It was here that he met Carl Solomon, to whom he would dedicate the poem "Howl." After he was released from the psychiatric hospital, Ginsberg remained in New York for a few years, starting to write and working odd jobs, before he moved to San Francisco in 1953. Once he was in San Francisco, he met a group of California artists and poets including Philip Whalen, Michael McClure, Philip Lamantia, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti and became involved in the San Francisco Renaissance movement that was taking place on the west coast literary scene. It was in San Francisco that Ginsberg first wrote "Howl" and read it for the first time at the 1955 Six Gallery reading hosted by Kenneth Rexroth. It was also in San Francisco that Ginsberg met Peter Orlovsky who would be his lover, collaborator, and companion throughout the rest of his life. Ginsberg spent the next few years nominally based in New York City, but traveling widely. He visited William Burroughs in Tangier, Morocco and famously lived in Paris at "The Beat Hotel" at 9 Rue Git-le-coeur with Gregory Corso and Willaim Burroughs where he helped assemble Burroughs's The Naked Lunch manuscript. He and Peter Orlovsky spent the greater part of 1962-1963 in India. This experience would be the basis for his non-fiction book Indian Journals. He moved back to New York, living in both the city and a farm house in Cherry Valley in upstate New York where he based his non-profit artists' relief fund, The Committee on Poetry. In 1974 Ginsberg helped to found the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics of the Naropa Institute where he was also a member of the faculty. He returned to teach at his alma mater as a visiting professor in 1968 and took a teaching position at Brooklyn College which he retained until his death of liver cancer in 1997.

Scope and Contents

The Allen Ginsberg papers contain correspondence, artwork, manuscripts, and printed material by and about Ginsberg, including the manuscript for "Indian Journals" and the manuscript for a collection of Ginsberg's lectures entitled "Allen Verbatim." The collection also contains a significant number of artworks and manuscripts by Ginsberg's friends and associates, including William Burroughs's "Interzone" (Naked Lunch) manuscript. There are a very small number of audio recordings included in the collection as well- a recording of an interview with Ginsberg a reel to reel tape of Ginsberg singing poems of William Blake. 1987 Addition: Letters from Allen Ginsberg to Imamu Amiri Baraka. 1991 Addition: Two tape recordings on the subject of William Blake. 1993 Addition: Books & periodicals. 1998 Addition: Letters from Allen Ginsberg to Arthur Knight.