Part of our continuing series on the Wild Dog Collection by SHSU Special Collections intern Kara Stafford
Allen Ginsberg, born June 3, 1926 to Louis and Naomi Ginsberg, was a famous and popular Beat poet. Interestingly Ginsberg’s father was a writer and his mother was a member of the communist party. His mother also had an undiagnosed mental illness which led to her death via lobotomy. Ginsberg’s career as a Beat writer had its start his freshman year at Columbia University where he befriended future Beat authors Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, and John Clellon Holmes. Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Burroughs would become pivotal figures in the beat movement. Ginsberg was a voice in many political movements such as: free speech, Vietnam War protests, Gay rights, he supported drug use, and brought attention to Bangladeshi war victims. His political activism led to many arrests and even a stint in a mental institution for hiding stolen goods for a friend. He dated many men, one of which was William Burroughs. Ginsberg’s most notable and lengthy romantic relationship was with Peter Orlovsky. Their relationship lasted over 30 years, and even if they were on breaks they remained friends.
Ginsberg’s first major piece of Beat poetry is called Howl. He used his study in Eastern religions in his poetry through mantras, rhythm, and chants used for spiritual effects. His poems Who Will Take Over the Universe, which talks about protest and his view of government, and a poem titled simply From Journals-1963 , which is a funny piece about an alcoholic telling his wife how he wants his funeral to go, can be found in the SHSU Special Collections Wild Dog Collection. Who Will Take over the Universe can be found in, Series 2, Subseries 4, Box 8, Folder 6 page 31, for the published clean copy. A second, annotated copy can be found in Series 2, Subseries 1, Box 5, and Folder 5. From Journals-1963 can be found in Series 2, Subseries 4, Box 9, and Folder 4 on page 14. Like the first poem a manuscript version of the second can be found in Series 2, Subseries 1, Box 5, Folder 18.
Ginsberg continued to produce great literary works throughout his life, win awards, and perform readings up until the last months of his life. He died on April 5, 1997 surrounded by friends and loved ones.
To view and read poems by Allen Ginsberg and learn more about The Wild Dog Papers, visit Newton Gresham Library’s Special Collections on the fourth floor of the Library.
View a detailed finding aid of this collection at Sam Houston State University’s Archon page and see just what materials are in the collection.