Many Loves: the Love Life of Allen Ginsberg

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Many Loves
“Resolved to sing no songs henceforth but those of manly attachment” -Walt Whitman
“Longing is a better muse than satisfaction”(1) says Regina Marler the author of ‘Queer Beat: How the Beats turned America onto sex’ and this is very true with regard to the nucleus of the generation which broke all rules of hegemonic, heterosexual, square society, a generation that questioned procreation itself, that regarded ‘manly love’ as the source of all enlightenment and divinity. Without Kerouac there would have been no ‘howl’, without Neal there would have been no ‘On the Road’ and without Ginsberg there would have been no ‘Naked Lunch’. It is rather amusing that all these poets were at some point of their lives unrequited lovers of each other. While Ginsberg longed for sexual unification with Kerouac and Neal, Burroughs on the other hand loved Ginsberg who in turn loved Burroughs but not the way he loved Neal and Jack and his long time flame Peter Orlovsky. Though there were many heart breaks, and Ginsberg felt that both Kerouac and Neal “ didn’t want anymore sex” (2) with him and that they actually “rejected” him, but “had there been direct, requited, unhampered love between any two Beats, they would have paired off and broken the circle”.(3) This is what is so unique about these writers , they were muses to each other and without one the other was incomplete.

The generation has been accused of being sexist, though women were not very popular as a part of the Beat generation, there were few who made some impact and were part of the grand orgy. Diane Di Prima a bisexual bohemian, the writer of ‘ Memoires of a beatnik’ and the co-editor of a newsletter ‘the floating Beer’ was one such magnetic woman who quite often made out and participated in orgies involving almost all the major Beat Poets. She describes one such occasion when all the poets got involved in one of the most mystifying orgies of their time. She says “it was a strange, nondescript kind of orgy. Allen set things going by largely and fully embracing all of us, each in turn and all at once, sliding from body to body in a great wallow of flesh.”(4) Ginsberg in particular loved to “lie down between the bridegroom and the bride” and would embrace “those bodies fallen from heaven stretched out waiting naked and restless”(5)

In the 1950s it often seemed that the only openly gay poet was Allen Ginsberg. The enormous publicity that Ginsberg received made him an important figure, whose avowal of homosexuality was part of his larger attempt to undermine American society and its pretensions to respectability. Although many of the Beat writers were homosexual or bisexual (such as Burroughs or Kerouac), it was Ginsberg who made his sexuality an integral part of his public image and his poetry. “Howl” was the first poem to bring Ginsberg public attention, and its treatment of homosexuality is characteristic of Ginsberg's position during this time. Ginsberg followed the poetic tradition of Whitman and spoke about the ‘self’ in his poems, though Whitman kept his sexuality mostly underground emphasized behind the themes of procreation in his work, Ginsberg on the other hand celebrated it. Whitman's sexuality was portrayed as both active and passive in his works; he devoted much attention to the image of two lovers happy together as to actual moments of sexual penetration. In Ginsberg the desire for religious vision is transformed into a desire to be laid, whereas in Whitman the experience of sexual pleasure leads to a greater understanding of the world. Ginsberg takes inspiration from Whitman when he transforms an ultimately peaceful vision of human unity into an affirmation of the homosexual's alienation from the “straight” world and a desire to become an object of love rather than a participant in it.

The writing of obscene, and provocative phrases like ‘Butler has no balls’ and ‘Fuck the Jews’ and tracing two lewd drawings, one of a phallus and...
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