Boston Poets Honor Beat Legend

Authors Read Ginsberg's Poems, Compare Him to T.S. Eliot '09

Local poets gathered last night to pay tribute to Allen Ginsberg, the beat poet who wrote, "America, I have given you all, and now I am nothing."

Ginsberg suffered a fatal heart attack on April 4, shortly after being diagnosed with terminal liver cancer.

Ginsberg was one of the founding members of the "Beat Generation" of poets who rejected mainstream values and sought a "beatific vision" through sex, drugs or meditation.

Nine Boston poets, including National Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, read Ginsberg's poetry in Science Center D.

"As time passes, Ginsberg will be remembered with T.S. Eliot ['09] for his ability to bring a religious sensibility to things that others considered sordid," Pinsky said.

Ginsberg was openly homosexual before the beginning of the modern gay rights movement. He first achieved national fame when critics charged that one of his poems, "Howl," was obscene.

The controversy led to a trial that centered on Ginsberg's description of sodomy in the epic poem.

Ginsberg and his publisher were eventually acquitted.

Henri Cole, the Briggs-Copeland lecturer on English and American Literature and Language, praised Ginsberg's candor.

"It showed his lovable side, his personality," Cole said. "He will certainly be seen as one of the great poets of this century."

Ginsberg lived most of his life on the Lower East Side of New York City, and he often included actual people and places he knew in his work.

Bernard Lumpkin, a tutor in Adams House, said that the communal nature of the Beat movement added to Ginsberg's works.

"He wrote about his friends' different shenanigans, and it makes his poetry seem easier, more intimate," Lumpkin said.

"They were writing for each other."

Ginsberg remained in the public eye after the end of the Beat movement.

He attended the Acid Test Festivals with Ken Kesey in the early '60s, appeared on film with Bob Dylan and publicly protested the Vietnam War.

Last night's reading was organized by Adams House and Louisa Solano, the owner of the Grolier Poetry Book Shop.

Solano said that her European customers often ask for Ginsberg's poetry.

"In Europe, he is recognized as the American poet, along with Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson," Solano said. "Everyone else is seen as British.