Allen Ginsberg at the Miami Bookfair International on November 7, 1985. Photo by MDCarchives via Wikipedia.
Today would’ve been Allen Ginsberg’s eighty-eighth birthday, and in honor of the Jersey-born poet’s powerful and beautiful work we asked people on the Burning Furiously Beautiful facebook page what their favorite Ginsberg poem was. I’ve loved hearing the results! So far we’ve heard:
My favorite is “Sunflower Sutra,” in which Ginsberg writes about Kerouac and him sitting under the shadow of a train as the sun set and spying a dried up sunflower amdist the machinery. The line “when did you forget you were a / flower?” slays me every time.
What’s your favorite poem by Allen Ginsberg? Leave it in the comments below or on the Burning Furiously Beautiful facebook page.
Want to read more about Ginsberg on his birthday?
And if you’ve ever been curious about how Allen Ginsberg met Jack Kerouac in the first place, you can read all about the early origins of the key people who came to represent the Beat Generation but who are all really so much more than that in Burning Furiously Beautiful.
One of my very favorite poets was born on this day in 1930. That’s right: Gregory Corso. He was quite a few years younger than his friends—William S. Burroughs was born in 1914, Jack Kerouac in 1922, Allen Ginsberg in 1926—but was one of the first published. Kerouac had published The Town and the City in 1950, but the novel that would put him on the map—On the Road—wasn’t published for another seven years. Ginsberg’s Howl was published in 1956. Corso published his first poetry book, The Vestal Lady on Brattle, in 1955. He was only twenty-five years old. Speaking of which, Corso wrote a lovely poem called “I Am 25.” I remember back when I was in college, reading it and thinking how far off that seemed. Twenty five. What a magical age. I wrote a little poem emulating his about how old I was then, and instead of saying “I HATE OLD POETMEN!” like the line in his poem, I wrote “I LOVE OLD POETMEN!” And I do. Gregory Corso is brilliant. Both a classicist and a rule breaker.
If anyone could be called “beat,” it was Corso. Most of the people who came to be associated with the Beat Generation were middle-class suburbanites, or something close to that. Corso was born to a sixteen-year-old Italian immigrant in New York City, who later abandoned him to the Catholic Church Charities. He was sent to live with foster parents and ended up homeless on the streets of New York, eventually doing time in prison at thirteen years old for petty larceny. The story goes that while in The Tombs, the Mafia encouraged him to read, and he fell in love with poetry.
Today would’ve been Jack Kerouac’s birthday. It’s too bad he’s not around this year–he passed away in 1969 at forty-seven years old–to see the films Big Sur, Kill Your Darlings, and On the Road.
If you’re interested in discovering his birth home, you can check out my Kerouac birthday post from last year, which has photos and history.
You may also be interested in seeing artist Jonathan Collins’ painting of Kerouac’s birth home.
Today would’ve been Jack Kerouac’s ninetieth birthday.
On March 12, 1922, French-Canadian immigrants Gabrielle and Leo Kerouac had their third, and last, child. He was born at home, on the second floor of the brown house sitting at 9 Lupine Road in Lowell, Massachusetts. This was in the West Centralville neighborhood, affectionately called Little Canada, of Lowell. They baptized the baby boy in the Catholic Church. His baptism certificate reads: Jean Louis Kirouac. Although that was the standard Quebec spelling of the surname, the family spelled the name Kerouac. They would call him Ti Jean, meaning Little John. In fact, he would publish his first book, The Town & the City as John Kerouac.
I visited Jack Kerouac’s birth home when I attended Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! last October. Apart from the plaque on the front of the house, nothing sets it apart as a any sort of landmark. Today a new family lives in Kerouac’s birth home. When the bus dropped my tour group off, the people came outside and gawked at us pilgrims just as we gawked at their regular-looking house. I love touring authors’ homes and wish Kerouac’s had been preserved for visitors, but it seems fitting that it wasn’t. After all, the Kerouacs moved often, and the house at 9 Lupine Road is just one of many that Kerouac lived in in Lowell. Although he lived much of his life with his mother, Kerouac spent much of his time on the road and crashing at friends’ pads. “Home” for Kerouac didn’t seem to be a house.
When I was a little girl, I always wanted my birthday party at the American Museum of Natural History. (Well, that or The Rink — the roller rink in Bergenfield — where I’d feed quarters into the vending machines for neon friendship bracelets.) I figured it was about time to bring the tradition back so the museum’s where I headed for my birthday earlier this month.
After the museum, I headed over to Momufuku’s Milk Bar. What better birthday cake than crack pie and candybar pie??
And then it was on to The Dead Poet, where I got to drink for free because I share a birthday with Leo Tolstoy. I ordered the Jack Kerouac, naturally.
So thankful to all the family and friends who made my birthday special!