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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biography / Administrative History
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Related Materials
  • Arrangement

  • Language of Material: English
    Contributing Institution: Department of Special Collections and University Archives
    Title: Allen Ginsberg papers
    creator: Ginsberg, Allen
    Identifier/Call Number: M0733
    Physical Description: 1000 Linear Feet
    Date (inclusive): 1937-1994
    Abstract: Collection contains correspondence, manuscripts by Ginsberg and other poets and authors, business records, notebooks and journals, clipping files, books, periodicals, audiotapes, videotapes, photographs, and posters. Some accessions have not yet been processed.


    Collection is open for research; materials must be requested at least 36 hours in advance of intended use.
    Accessions received in 1998, 1999, 2002, 2004, and 2018 totaling some 161.5 linear feet have not yet been processed.
    Selected audiovisual material has been digitized: https://searchworks.stanford.edu/?f%5Bcollection%5D%5B%5D=4084385

    Publication Rights

    While Special Collections is the owner of the physical and digital items, permission to examine collection materials is not an authorization to publish. These materials are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. Any transmission or reproduction beyond that allowed by fair use requires permission from the owners of rights, heir(s) or assigns.

    Preferred Citation

    Allen Ginsberg papers, M0733. Dept. of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.

    Acquisition Information

    Purchased, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2004 and 2011. Gift of Peter Hale, 2018.

    Biography / Administrative History

    Irwin Allen Ginsberg was born on June 3, 1926 in Newark, New Jersey to Louis and Naomi (Levy) Ginsberg. Louis Ginsberg, who died in 1976, was a high school English teacher and poet who was politically a socialist but socially conservative; Louis often disagreed with his son's writings. Naomi Ginsberg, a Russian-born Jew and a dedicated Marxist, died in a mental institution in 1956. Ginsberg documented his mother's illness and its impact on his life in "Kaddish for Naomi Ginsberg (1894-1956)," better known simply as "Kaddish."
    Ginsberg and his older brother, lawyer and poet Eugene Brooks, grew up in Paterson, New Jersey. Ginsberg enrolled at Columbia University on a Young Men's Hebrew Association scholarship in 1943. Originally intending to major in pre-law, he changed his major to literature and studied with Mark Van Doren and Lionel Trilling, with whom he frequently clashed artistically.
    The greatest influence on Ginsberg's artistic as well as personal development was his off-campus circle of friends, including most notably Jack Kerouac, a former Columbia student four years older than Ginsberg; and William S. Burroughs, who introduced Ginsberg to the literature of rebellion as well as illicit drugs, and who would publish in 1959 his surreal satire of American life entitled Naked Lunch. Herbert Huncke, John Clellon Holmes, Lucien Carr, and Neal Cassady were also part of this extended network of literary-minded friends, and comprised the core of the Beat Generation which would begin to surface as a movement in the mid-1950s with the publication of Ginsberg's Howl and Kerouac's bohemian-hobo novel On the Road.
    Ginsberg's major personal problems arose out of attempts to deal with his homosexuality and with brushes-by-association with the law. In the aftermath of the murder of his friend David Kammerer by Lucien Carr in 1945, Ginsberg was suspended from Columbia for a year, during which he worked as a merchant marine, a Times Square restaurant dishwasher, and a reporter for a New Jersey newspaper. Returning to Columbia, he maintained an A-minus average and took his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1948.
    Early the following year Herbert Huncke moved into Ginsberg's apartment after being released from jail. Huncke began using Ginsberg's to store stolen property that he was selling to support his drug habit. When Huncke was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison, Ginsberg was circumstantially implicated and pled psychological disability to avoid a jail sentence. He was committed to the Columbia Psychiatric Institute for eight months. There he became friends with Carl Solomon, the "lunatic saint" to whom he would dedicate "Howl."
    After his release from the Institute, Ginsberg moved in with his father and step-mother, Edith Ginsberg. During his stay, he met and befriended physician and poet William Carlos Williams, who impressed on Ginsberg the importance of paying attention to the world immediately around him and recording his observations in the rhythms of idiomatic American English. The model for such language was Neal Cassady, a high-energy athlete, ex-con, spellbinder, and lyrical talker.
    Ginsberg remained in the New York City area until 1953, supporting himself mainly as a market researcher. He left New York City in December 1953 to follow Neal Cassady, who had married and moved to San Jose, California, and after visiting Cuba and the Yucatan, arrived in San Jose in 1954, where he lived with Neal and his wife Carolyn, until she evicted him after finding him in bed with her husband.
    Ginsberg moved to San Francisco, acquired a live-in girlfriend, a well-paid job, and a middle-class apartment and tried living a life of middle-class domesticity. After a year of this, he decided, with his psychiatrist's blessings, to end the charade, quit his job, and move in with his boyfriend, Peter Orlovsky.
    In San Francisco, Ginsberg became part of the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance, a literary circle including Kenneth Rexroth, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, Philip Lamantia, Robert Duncan, and Philip Whalen. In October 1955, Rexroth hosted a poetry reading at the Six Gallery in San Francisco in which Snyder, McClure, Whalen, Lamantia, and Ginsberg participated. Ginsberg read his newly written poem "Howl."
    In 1956, Lawrence Ferlinghetti published Howl and Other Poems in his Pocket Poets series. United States Customs officers and the San Francisco police seized the edition, and Ferlinghetti was charged with publishing an obscene book. The court case, which Ferlinghetti won in 1957, gave the book immense publicity, and by the time the trial was over Ginsberg was widely in demand for poetry readings.
    From the 1950s on, Ginsberg based himself in New York, alternating between the Cherry Valley farm that he bought and a tenement apartment in Manhattan's Lower East Side, which he rented until 1996. He travelled extensively in Europe, Latin America, North Africa and the Asia as well as the United States. The poems in Planet News : 1961-1967 (City Lights, 1968) constitute a poetic record of Ginsberg's travels in Eastern Europe, the Indian subcontinent, other parts of Asia, as well as in the United States. Included in the collection was "Wichita Vortex Sutra," inspired by his tour of Midwestern universities. The collection The Fall of America : Poems of These States, 1965-1971 (City Lights, 1973) earned Ginsberg the National Book Award.
    Into the 1960s he experimented heavily with drugs, including LSD under the guidance of Timothy Leary, partly as an aid to poetic creation. The first two parts of "Kaddish to Naomi Ginsberg (1894-1956)", published in Kaddish and Other Poems (City Lights, 1961), were written under the influence of a combination of amphetamines and morphine. Around 1960, Ginsberg began seeking the counsel of Martin Buber in Israel and of holy men in India and emerged with a new attitude; he began to preach of the superiority of yoga and meditation over the use of drugs, but he did not rule out the usefulness of such psychedelics as marijuana, peyote, and, occasionally, LSD. While he warned against the use of addictive drugs, he fought against the government's manipulation of the publicized danger of those drugs and campaigned for a liberalization of drug laws.
    Ginsberg became a spiritual leader for the hippie and Yippie movements during the 1960s. Ginsberg invented the term "flower power" in 1965 and was the driving force behind the Gathering of the Tribes for a Human Be-In held in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco in January 1967. Later in the same year, he was arrested in an anti-Vietnam war demonstration in New York City, and during the demonstration at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago he was teargassed by police while trying to calm the crowd by chanting mantras. At the conspiracy trial of the Chicago demonstrators, known as the Chicago Seven, he testified for the defense.
    In 1974, Ginsberg helped to found the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics of the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, a Buddhist university where he continued to teach courses in poetry and Buddhist meditation until his death. In 1974 he was also inducted into the American Institute of Arts and Letters. Ginsberg began to hope for any salvation for America and took refuge in Buddhism under the guidance of Trungpa Chogyam, the Tibetan guru who supervised the Naropa Institute. In addition to instructing Ginsberg in Kagu Buddhist meditation, Trungpa served as his general adviser, in artistic as well as spiritual matters.
    After the Vietnam War, Ginsberg concentrated his political efforts on exposing alleged CIA subsidization of drug trafficking; in attempts at reforming American drug laws; in environmental and antinuclear causes; in sexual freedom causes; and in speaking out against abuses of authority by governmental agencies including the FBI, CIA, and police forces. Ginsberg became an outspoken critic of the Reagan Administration's intervention in Nicaragua. He wrote "Plutonian Ode" for a demonstration at the Rocky Flats, Colorado plutonium works.
    After publishing his books for years with small alternative presses, Ginsberg signed a $160,000 contract with Harper & Row for six books. The first, Collected Poems, 1947-1980 was published in 1984. White Shroud was published in 1986, bringing together the poems that Ginsberg wrote between 1980 and 1985, and Cosmopolitan Greetings was published in 1994.
    Ginsberg's books of prose include Indian Journals (1970), Allen Verbatim: Lectures on Poetry, Politics, Consciousness (McGraw-Hill, 1974), Journals : Early Fifties-Early Sixties (Grove, 1977), both edited by Gordon Ball.
    Ginsberg made scores of recordings, including an album in the Spoken Arts Treasury of 100 American Poets (Volume XVI, 1969), William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience Tuned by Allen Ginsberg (MGM, 1970), First Blues : songs, and many poetry readings in limited editions. CD releases have included The Lion For Real (1989) and The Ballad of the Skeletons (1996), as well as collaborative efforts with Philip Glass, Hydrogen Jukebox (1993), and the Kronos Quartet, Howl U.S.A. (1996).
    In 1960's, Ginsberg appeared in some of the most famous experimental films of the decade, including the Robert Frank’s Pull My Daisy. His longtime interest in the visual arts, especially photography, a practice encouraged by his longtime friend Frank, have now been collected in two books, Photographs (1991) and Snapshot Poetics (1993). Ginsberg's photographs were also represented in a groundbreaking exhibit organized by the Whitney Museum of Art, "Beat Culture and the New America: 1950 -1965."
    Ginsberg was a visiting professor at Columbia University in 1986-87, and he taught at Brooklyn College from the fall of 1987 until his death.
    Allen Ginsberg died at the age of 70 on April 6, 1997 of a heart attack triggered by liver cancer, which had only been diagnosed a few days before.
    Note: this biographical sketch draws heavily on the following: Current Biography Yearbook 1987. New York : H. W. Wilson, 1987.
    Miles, Barry. Ginsberg : a biography. New York : Simon and Schuster, 1989.
    Schumacher, Michael. Dharma Lion : a biography of Allen Ginsberg. New York : St. Martin's Press, 1992.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Allen Ginsberg papers document the life work of one of the core members of the Beat Generation and a leading American poet of the 20th century. The papers include personal and professional correspondence, journals, business records, personal mementos, newspaper clippings, artwork, and other documents generated and collected by him from 1937 to 1997.
    The papers are divided into the following series: 1. Correspondence, 2. Notebooks and journals, 3. Manuscripts, 4. Business records, 5. Financial Records, 6. Committee on Poetry records, 7. Teaching materials, 8. Political files, 9. Religious materials, 10. Photographs, 11. Media, 12. Computer files, 13. Periodicals, 14. Clippings, 15. Memorabilia, 16. Posters, 17. Printed Ephemera, 18. Artwork, 19. Musical scores, 20. Obsolete indices, 21. 2011 Accession (journal from 1946 and fourteen folders of correspondence)
    Wherever Ginsberg's original arrangement of materials was encountered, the order was retained. However, materials previously housed at Columbia University show signs of having been rearranged significantly. As a result, several series show evidence of conflicting intellectual arrangements, one imposed by Ginsberg and his staff, another by third parties. When possible, series notes will indicate which portions reflect Ginsberg's own arrangement system and which reflect later processing.

    Related Materials

    Stanford holds several related collections by and about Ginsberg, including collections of correspondence, photographs and media: https://searchworks.stanford.edu/?f%5Bformat_main_ssim%5D%5B%5D=Archive%2FManuscript&q=%22Ginsberg%2C+Allen%2C+1926-1997.+%22&search_field=search


    Boxes were numbered beginning from 1 in each series, and in some cases for each type of container (i.e. there is a "Box 1" and a "Map-folder 1"). Paging requires series number.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Beat generation.
    Compact discs.
    American literature -- 20th century.
    Berkson, Bill.
    Baraka, Imamu Amiri
    Lamantia, Philip, 1927-2005
    Avedon, Richard.
    Antler, 1946-
    Burroughs, William S.
    Bremser, Ray.
    Bunting, Basil.
    Bly, Robert.
    Blackburn, Paul
    Blake, William
    Di Prima, Diane.
    Ginsberg, Allen
    Dellinger, David T.
    Creeley, Robert, 1926-2005
    Corso, Gregory
    Cope, David
    Cassady, Neal.
    Cassady, Carolyn.
    Carroll, Paul
    Bowles, Paul, 1910–1999
    Zukofsky, Louis
    Genet, Jean
    Yevtushenko, Yevgeny Aleksandrovich
    Ford, Charles Henri.
    Williams, William Carlos
    Eberhart, Richard, 1904-2005
    Dylan, Bob
    McClure, Michael
    Suwa, Yu
    Ansen, Alan.
    Kesey, Ken
    Ono, Yoko.
    Orlovsky, Peter
    Murao, Soju
    Olson, Charles
    Montgomery, John
    Moore, Marianne, 1887-1972
    Micheline, Jack
    Malanga, Gerard.
    Levertov, Denise, 1923-1997
    Levy, D. A.
    Lebel, Jean Jacques.
    Lennon, John
    LaVigne, Robert.
    Koch, Kenneth, 1925-2002
    Ferlinghetti, Lawrence
    Kerouac, Jack
    Kaufman, Bob.
    Joans, Ted.
    Huncke, Herbert
    Horovitz, Michael
    Holmes, John Clellon
    Kupferberg, Tuli
    Hollo, Anselm.
    Ball, Gordon
    Sorrentino, Gilbert
    Heliczer, Piero.
    Auden, W. H. (Wystan Hugh)
    Girodias, Maurice.
    Giorno, John.
    Sosnora, Viktor
    Ginsberg, Louis
    Dorn, Edward
    Whitman, Walt
    Mailer, Norman
    Wieners, John
    Berrigan, Ted
    Williams, Jonathan
    Voznesenskīĭ, Andreĭ
    Waldman, Anne
    Welch, Lew.
    Ungaretti, Giuseppe
    Vinkenoog, Simon
    Vitale, Tom.
    Leary, Timothy, 1920-1996
    Spender, Stephen
    Trilling, Lionel
    Trocchi, Alexander
    Solomon, Carl W.
    Southern, Terry.
    Rosenthal, Bob, 1950-
    Rexroth, Kenneth
    Beck, Julian
    Sanders, Ed
    Snyder, Gary
    Poniewaz, Jeff.
    Plymell, Charles.
    Trungpa, Chögyam
    Ram Dass.
    Pound, Ezra
    Pickard, Tom
    Padgett, Ron.
    Whalen, Philip
    Plimpton, George.
    Hoffman, Abbie
    Pivano, Fernanda.