It would be safe to say that the late poet Allen Ginsberg raised a few eyebrows, good or bad, with some of his work through the years.
Ginsberg’s poem “Howl” was a signature work, causing quite a stir in 1955 with bans for obscenities and censorship trials. The first reading of the poem in October 1955 was hailed by some as the birth of the Beat Generation.
Allen Ginsberg was no stranger to our region. He appeared a few times at area colleges and arts venues, and was a part-time resident of Cherry Valley for many years.
Ginsberg appeared in Oneonta on Thursday, Sept. 26, 1968 and received mixed reviews by both The Oneonta Star and The State Times.
“He was met at the State University College at Oneonta Thursday evening by a crowd of over one or two thousand collegians who offered weak applause at the beginning and end of his two hour performance outside the Fine Arts building.”
While being notorious for his “lewd and obscene” writing, “Little if anything he said was shocking,” according to the Star.
The State Times also noted the lack of audience enthusiasm in the Oct. 4, 1968 edition, but was a bit kinder, saying, “Despite the mild enthusiasm, Ginsberg’s talents shone through.”
Ginsberg gave a recital of poetry and music to an overflow crowd at Hartwick College’s Slade Auditorium on Monday, April 24, 1978.
Ginsberg bought a farm around 1966 on East Hill in Cherry Valley. It served as his retreat and occasionally hosted prominent Beat Generation poets such as Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs. All were seen frequently at area restaurants or reading poetry during village arts festivals during their retreats.
Charles and Pamela Prymell moved to the farm to be with Ginsberg. Charles, himself a poet, had met Ginsberg in the 1950s when both were members of San Francisco’s emerging literary circle.