Jack Kerouac is the gateway drug to The Beats. It seems like everyone comes to them through On the Road. I loved it, and I bought works by these men who sought to change a generation with their new style of writing.
James Franco’s portrayal of Allen Ginsberg and his reading of “Howl,” in the movie turned me on to Ginsberg. And I fell in love. Now I read Howl and Other Poems (the first collection of Ginsberg poems ever published) at least once a year. This little book never leaves my desk. It never gets tossed in with the other books in my collection.
It’s difficult to explain how much Ginsberg means to me. He’s the first poet whose work I connected with. After years of struggling with what schools had told me were great poems and poets, here was this free-flow of words which hit me right in the gut. “This … this is what I’ve been looking for!” Now I can say I dig poetry. 🙂
The more I read about Allen Ginsberg, the more I wish I had known him. Yes, he was as screwed up as any of them (well, except for William S. Burroughs who was his very own special kind of screwed up). But it seems to me that Ginsberg sought to make himself better, to make those around him better, and was always trying new ways to expand his consciousness.
One biography I read stated in the Introduction that no matter what people felt about Ginsberg, they all universally thought of him and kind and gracious.
About a year ago, I had a dream where I was walking through a crowd of people and came across Ginsberg. He looked at me kindly, and I bowed with my hands together, “Namaste Mr. Ginsberg. I am proud to have met you.” He nodded and I moved on.
So today is one worth noting, not only for the introduction of Ginsberg’s poetry to the public, but for the profound changes he wrought on society through his views on civil rights and the obscenity trial in San Francisco over “Howl,” which changed the very definition of obscenity and censorship.