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Allen Ginsberg

Date: Early 50s to Late 60s


Allen Ginsberg was an American poet
synonymous with the Beat Generation or
beatniks. A tight group of writers and poets
against the materialism and conformity of the
post-war world.
Allen Ginsberg was a major cultural turning point in
American history. He served as an eye opener in many
facets of our culture. His audience was initially limited
in the vanilla fifties because his poetry and lifestyle was
very underground at the time. The Beats were not very
accepted and often mocked for their weird ideas and
desire to be different. Ginsbergs poems frequented
taboo topics like homosexuality, lustful desires, drugs,
and non-conformity. Ginsburg is a turning point in
American history, because after his poems, speaking on
such issues simply became less controversial. He in
many senses functioned as an icebreaker for the
upcoming sixties. His effects can be seen in the gay
rights movement, the free speech movement, the sexual
revolution, and the demystification of drugs. After
Ginsbergs poetry became more well-known talking
about sex, drugs, homosexuality and other taboos was
more common and a legitimate conversation piece
people could have unlike in the fifties.
The Conformity of the 1950s
Date: 1948-1960
After World War 2, almost as if it were an American
tradition, America reached new heights of
consumerism and domesticity. Being different was
demoted and everything was comfortable and similar.
Everyone is completely unique in the world and expecting an
entire nation to adopt and enjoy the same lifestyle is absurd.
That is at least how we are able to see it now, but in the fifties
this idea simply did not occur to anybody. Everyone just
assumed that following what others did, even if did not really
want to, was normal. This attitude was simply maintained to
maintain the post-war peace and comfort. In the fifties, you
simply dont act different because that is controversial and it
makes people question things. This leads to changes and we do
not want that. After seeing so much death and atrocities, all we
want is to be comfortable and stagnant. This was the mindset in
the fifties and it was completely justified if you consider how
horrid the war was to most men and women who witnessed it.
However, this world did not really fit with Ginsberg because he
was different in many ways. He was a homosexual,
experimented with drugs, was raised by a communist and
mentally ill mother, and a poet father. He did not fit the
common mold and this inspired him to express his frustrations
through his poetry.
San Francisco Renaissance
Date: 1960-1969
The S.F Renaissance was a period of profound
evolution in literature and other arts, that
occurred in the sixties in San Francisco. It
solidified the Bay Area as the epicenter of the
counter-culture movement that would follow.
Prior to the Renaissance, the Bay area had already
been a major cultural center for music, art, and
literature. However, it was largely similar to
anything that was already available in the other
major cities. Yet, when Ginsberg and his New
York entourage visited San Francisco, they
befriended the West Coast poets and something
new was born from their union. Although the
changes in literature and art were great, the lasting
legacy of the S.F Renaissance was that it made the
counter-culture movement gain traction as a
national phenomenon. After the meeting of both
coasts, those who were involved sensed that they
were part of something greater and real. It was no
longer a niche thing of their hometown. This led to
the creation of underground newspapers and
allowed the counter-culture ideas to spread around
the country. At this point, the movement also
started to leak into music and became more
mainstream.