Allen Ginsberg, 70, the internationally famous poet laureate of an alienated and anti-establishment collection of 1950s performers, writers and artists who became known as the Beat Generation, died April 5 at his home on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He had liver cancer.
The bespectacled, bearded and balding cultural icon had enormous influence on art, music and politics. From a private, deeply anti-establishment base, he produced poetry that included graphic sex, emotionally churning autobiography and the occasional vision of an angel.
He gained fame in the 1950s as a cohort of such other Beat writers as Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso, William Burroughs and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He became a guru and leader of more recent cultural figures, including yippie leader Abbie Hoffman, Czech president and noted writer Vaclav Havel and musical performers such as Yoko Ono and Bob Dylan.
His acclaim and continued productivity are illustrated by his winning the 1973 National Book Award for "The Fall of America: Poems of These States, 1965 to 1971." He also was a finalist for the 1995 Pulitzer Prize in poetry for his "Cosmopolitan Greetings: Poems 1986-1992."
Mr. Ginsberg burst onto the public scene in 1956 after the publication of "Howl," regarded by many as a profane and too-graphic poem in which the poet celebrated his own homosexuality and his politically radical family background. The poem's publisher was arrested and charged with selling pornography and eventually acquitted amid a sea of headlines and a chorus of readers praising Mr. Ginsberg.
But perhaps his best poem was the title piece in his 1961 book, "Kaddish and Other Poems." The lead poem, "Kaddish to Naomi Ginsberg (1894-1956)" addressed the tragic life and death of his mother.
His mother, a Russian-born Marxist, died in a mental institution. In the poem, he seemingly came to terms with his own anger as well as his Oedipal ties to her, and he concluded the poem as a celebration of her as a martyr to forbidden dreams and desires.
His poetry ranged from the very personal to the broadly social and political. It was as radical in its language, rhyme and meter as in its message. If it spoke the language of the Beats, it also spoke in the American spirit that is perhaps best represented by Walt Whitman. Another poet, William Carlos Williams, who also wrote much in the Whitman spirit, became Mr. Ginsberg's friend when the Beat poet was a youthful and rather conservative beginning writer. Williams wrote the forward to an edition of "Howl."
Mr. Ginsberg helped organize what was later called the first "be-in" in San Francisco, was gassed with fellow demonstrators at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago and led anti-war demonstrations in 1967 against U.S. policies in Vietnam. His travels took him to India and the Orient, where he became a Buddhist. In 1965, he was credited with coining the term "flower power" to label the goal of the 1960s counterculture generation.
He was an enthusiastic advocate of questionable pharmaceutical preparations. He called some of his work "speed poetry," a term addressing not only the rapidity with which he could write but also the slang term for the amphetamine Benzedrine, the medication he favored while composing the odes.
While cautioning against some drugs, including heroin, he was a champion of marijuana and peyote as aids to poetic creativity. He took LSD under the supervision of enthusiast Timothy Leary and later reported that he composed "Kaddish" while under the influence of morphine, among other drugs.
Over the years, Mr. Ginsberg generated a huge poetic output. Although his early works were published by "art house" publishers, it was reported that by the 1980s, the anti-establishment poet had a six-book contract with Harper & Row for $160,000.
Irwin Allen Ginsberg, who was born in New Jersey, was the son of Louis Ginsberg, a conservative poet and high school English teacher who died of liver cancer in 1976, and the former Naomi Levy. He later said that it was his mother's political dedication that led him to Columbia University, where he planned to study a pre-law program.
While a teenager at Columbia, he fell in with such companions as Kerouac and Burroughs.
"I think it was when I ran into Kerouac and Burroughs when I was 17 that I realized I was talking through an empty skull," Mr. Ginsberg once said. "I wasn't thinking my own thoughts or saying my own thoughts."
Mr. Ginsberg gave up law to study literature, and he became recognized as the star pupil of such legendary teachers as Mark Van Doren and Lionel Trilling. Influenced by the advice of his professors, the mysticism of William Blake, the raw power of Whitman and the down-to-earth admonitions of William Carlos Williams, he embarked on a life of poetry.
In an unfortunate sequence of events, Mr. Ginsberg entered the career world of New York market research, spent eight months in a New York mental institution, then resumed market research in San Francisco. He finally gave up market research and "a normal life" to become a full-time writer.
The year 1956, in which he wrote and performed "Howl," was also the year Kerouac published his book, "On the Road." Both are today regarded as cultural milestones. While living in San Francisco during that period, Mr. Ginsberg took part in what came to be called the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance, which was loosely presided over by Kenneth Rexroth and Ferlinghetti.
It was Ferlinghetti who published "Howl" and came to battle San Francisco police, the U.S. Customs Service and various courts in its defense against obscenity charges.
The poem began, "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked."
It then presented such stunningly surreal images as "a lost battalion of platonic conversationalists jumping down the stoops off fire escapes," people who "walked all night with their shoes full of blood on the snowbank docks waiting for a door in the East River to open a room full of steam heat and opium."
He remained active until nearly the end. He was doing poetry readings and performing in nightclubs in his sixties. In 1996, he recorded his poem "The Ballad of the Skeletons" with the musical assistance of Paul McCartney and Philip Glass.
Mr. Ginsberg toured with Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue in 1977. A 1986 tour he made of Eastern Europe included a recording session with a Hungarian rock group and an address to a young Polish poets congress.
He underwent treatment for hepatitis C for many years. The hepatitis led to cirrhosis of the liver in 1988. About a week ago, he was diagnosed as having terminal liver cancer.
He spent several days in a hospice, then decided to return home. It was reported that he wrote a dozen short poems the day before having a stroke, including one titled "On Fame and Death."
The diagnosis of terminal liver cancer was made public Thursday. On Thursday night, Mr. Ginsberg had the stroke and then fell into a coma.
Survivors include his stepmother, Edith Ginsberg of Paterson, N.J.; and a brother. ANNE B. COYNE Real Estate Agent
Anne B. Coyne, 80, a Washington area real estate agent since 1965 who was active in church groups, died April 4 in a car accident. A spokesman for the Montgomery County police said the car in which she was riding hit a guard rail and became airborne before sliding into a drainage ditch.
Police said a son, J. Patrick Coyne Jr., the car's driver, was flown to Suburban Hospital, where he was listed in critical condition. The accident, on North Georgia Avenue in Wheaton's Aspen Hill area, is under investigation, police said.
Mrs. Coyne, who came to the Washington area during World War II, was a native of Brookline, Mass., and a resident of Silver Spring. As a real estate agent, she had worked for Shannon & Luchs Co. and then Weichert Realtors Inc. She was working in Silver Spring at the time of her death.
She was a member of the sodality at St. Bernadette's Catholic Church and the Holy Family Guild of the Holy Family Seminary Catholic Community in Silver Spring. She also served on the board of the Support Center of Montgomery County and did charitable work.
Her husband, J. Patrick Coyne Sr., died in 1985.
In addition to her son, J. Patrick Jr., of Silver Spring, survivors include two other sons, Robert John Coyne and William Coyne, both of Silver Spring; two daughters, Joane Kelley of Ireland and Mary Coyne of Mississippi; two sisters, Mary Hohmann and Patricia Egan, both of Massachusetts; and three grandchildren.