The present exhibition explores the life and writings of Allen Ginsberg, the noted American poet closely associated with the Beat literary movement of the 1950s and with many of the major countercultural initiatives of the following decades. The exhibit traces Ginsberg's life from an early apprenticeship in New York in the 1940s and early 1950s to his eruption onto the national literary scene with the publication of two major works of poetry, Howl (1956) and Kaddish (1961), and through the several decades of writing, speaking, travel, and political activism that followed. During this time Ginsberg became America's best-known living poet and an antiestablishment hero, one who, ironically, began to receive increasing acceptance from the mainstream in the last years before his death in 1997.
The exhibition is based chiefly on the remarkable Ginsberg collection acquired in 2002 from Bill Morgan of New York City, a longtime friend of the poet as well as his official bibliographer and archivist. We have also drawn on related materials in the Rare Book Collection, notably from the Grove Press Collection and the general literary holdings of the department. In tracing Ginsberg's life and literary career, the exhibition relies heavily on printed materials. These are supplemented by a number of interesting manuscripts and other unique items and, perhaps most important, by a generous selection of photographs -- many of them taken by Ginsberg himself and subsequently annotated with his handwritten captions.
We would like to express our gratitude to the Allen Ginsberg Trust for permission to display photographs taken by the poet, to Chris Felver of California for permission to display a number of his photographs of Ginsberg, and to Robert E. Johnson for allowing us to use a 1954 photograph of the poet by Chester Kessler (shown here on the homepage). We also wish to thank the Manuscripts Department and the North Carolina Collection in Wilson Library for their assistance in locating relevant materials from their holdings and for letting us use them in the present display.