Irwin Allen Ginsberg (IPA: /ˈgɪnzbɝg/) (June 3, 1926 – April 5, 1997) was an American poet. Ginsberg is best known for the poem Howl (1956), celebrating his friends of the Beat Generation and attacking what he saw as the destructive forces of materialism and conformity in the United States at the time.
Ginsberg was born into a Jewish family in Newark, New Jersey, and grew up in nearby Paterson. His father Louis Ginsberg was a poet and a high school teacher.Ginsberg's mother, Naomi Livergant Ginsberg (who was affected by epileptic seizures and mental illnesses such as paranoia was an active member of the Communist Party and often took Ginsberg and his brother Eugene to party meetings. Ginsberg later said that his mother "made up bedtime stories that all went something like: 'The good king rode forth from his castle, saw the suffering workers and healed them.'"
As a young teenager, Ginsberg began to write letters to The New York Times about political issues such as World War II and workers' rights.When he was in junior high school, he accompanied his mother by bus to her therapist. The trip disturbed Ginsberg — he mentioned it and other moments from his childhood in his long autobiographical poem "Kaddish for Naomi Ginsberg (1894-1956)."While in high school, Ginsberg began reading Walt Whitman; he said he was inspired by his teacher's passion in reading.
In 1943, Ginsberg graduated from Eastside High School and briefly attended Montclair State College before entering Columbia University on a scholarship from the Young Men's Hebrew Association of Paterson in 1949.While at Columbia, Ginsberg contributed to the Columbia Review literary journal, the Jester humor magazine, won the Woodberry Poetry Prize and served as president of the Philolexian Society, the campus literary and debate group.
Ginsberg worked for a while as a clerk in the Gotham Book Mart, a renowned bookstore and literary hotspot, where he undoubtedly came in contact with many renowned authors and poets.