Allen Ginsberg "saw the best minds of his generation destroyed by madness" ("Howl"). He struggled through family conflicts and homosexuality throughout his adolescence, and then he went on to become one of the most read poets of his time. Allen was a strong man who never allowed anything get the best of him, including fear. He made a list of all his fears, large and small, and then worked his way through them, ridding himself of one fear after another (Mitchell 30). His influence on everyone he came in contact with carries on even after his death, and many writers dedicate their time to documenting his life as it affected them. Readers of his poetry say he has "a delicate lyrical style reminiscent of certain seventeenth century poets" (Brinnin 49). Allen Ginsberg, father of the beat generation, was the embodiment of the ideals of personal freedom, nonconformity, and the search for enlightenment.
Irwin Allen Ginsberg was born on June 3, 1926 in Newark, New Jersey, and soon after moved to Paterson, New Jersey ("Modern American Poetry"). He was his parent's second child, preceded by one brother, Eugene, who was named after a speaker his father was impressed with as a young child (Miles 30). His father, Louis Ginsberg, was a high school teacher and a moderate Jew Socialist, and Naomi, his mother, was a "radical communist and irrepressible nudist who went tragically insane during early adulthood" ("Literary Kicks"). Naomi grew up speaking Yiddish and learned to play the mandolin when she was young. She went to Barringer high school, which is where she met Louis Ginsberg in 1912, when they were both only seventeen (Miles 12). Often Naomi, who also suffered through recurrent epileptic seizures and a severe form of paranoia, would trust only Allen when she was convinced the rest of the world, and her family, were plotting against her ("Literary Kicks"). Allen would frequently stay home from school in order to look after Naomi on her particularly bad days, and he later wrote the poem "Kaddish" explaining in harrowing detail his strange relationship with his mother (Miles 30).
In the winter of 1941 Naomi's condition had worsened, resulting in wild imaginings such as Louis poisoning her soup, and Allen would taste it to prove to her it was safe (30). Later that winter Naomi made Allen take her to a therapist at Lakewood, New Jersey Rest Home. She was in and out of institutions for a long time following, and her condition continued to worsen until she was hospitalized for life and finally lobotomized ("Literary Kicks"). She died at Pilgrim State Hospital in 1956 ("Modern American Poetry").
Allen changed high schools often, but finally settled in East Side High. His vast knowledge of politics, his collection of appalling jokes, and his poetry, which he read aloud in English class, all helped him to be accepted as a member of the graduating class (Miles 30). He became president of both the debating society and the dramatic society.