Allen Ginsberg

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US poet and political activist. His reputation as a visionary, overtly political poet was established by Howl (1956), which expressed and shaped the spirit of the Beat Generation and criticised the materialism of contemporary US society.

Ginsberg - like many of his generation of poets - found his authorial voice via experimentation with drugs, alternative religion, and the hippie culture.

His poetry drew, for example, on Oriental philosophies and utilised mantric breath meditations.

Ginsberg travelled widely - to Cuba, India, and Czechoslovakia in the 1960s, and China and Nicaragua in the 1980s - spreading his Zen-socialist politics of radical but passive dissent.

His other major poem, Kaddish (1961), dealt with the breakdown and death of his schizophrenic mother. His Collected Poems 1947 - 1980 was published in 1985.

He died on 5 April 1997, surrounded by family and friends in his East Village loft in New York City, succumbing to liver cancer via complications of hepatitis. He was 70 years old.