Poet Allen Ginsberg remembered 15 years after he dies
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Poet Allen Ginsberg remembered 15 years after he dies

Writer Leslea Newman, author of more than 60 books and former poet laureate of Northampton, MA, offered a warm tribute to poet Allen Ginsberg, her onetime teacher, who died in April 1997, in a recent post on Obit-Mag.com (yes, there is such a publication):


I was especially drawn to Allen because he was Jewish, as I was, and he was gay, as I suspected I might be (I was right). Allen took my work seriously, assured me that my writing was important and gave me permission to be a poet, instead of the teacher, secretary or social worker my parents wanted me to be. But could I survive as a poet, without a steady job, a dependable income, a pension plan? Because Allen had had the same fears as a young aspiring poet, he put mine to rest.

Oh, Ginzy, where are you now? A world awash in greed and desperation needs you more than ever. How would Allen Ginsberg have responded to today’s events? What poems would he have written? I have no doubt he would have found a way to challenge us all.

In a 1996 interview, Ginsberg discussed the sources for his poem, "Kaddish," one of his most famous works: "I had never heard the formal rhythms of the Kaddish before, pronounced aloud, or never consciously heard them. They sounded familiar. But all of a sudden I realized it was some kind of interesting, moving, powerful cadence….I’ve never said it. I don’t read Hebrew I wasn’t Bar Mitzvahed. And I was kicked out of Hebrew school for asking questions." Elsewhere in the interview, Ginsberg offered numerous responses – some of them mocking and humorous – about his Jewish origins and upbringing:

 I’m Jewish. My name is Ginsboig. I wrote a book called Kaddish….My last book has a long poem called "Why I’m Jewish."…It’s called "Yiddishe Kopf." 

The Eulogizer highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Write to the Eulogizer at eulogizer@jta.org. Follow the Eulogizer on Twitter @TheEulogizer