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Allen Ginsberg’s First Poem?

I was doing some research this morning for a forthcoming book about Hunter S. Thompson (who attended the Kentucky Derby 50 years ago tomorrow) when I had a strange thought. I had been looking through old newspapers to explore his criminal records and I suddenly wondered whether or not there were similar stories about Allen Ginsberg…

There certainly were (although he was not quite the child criminal that Thompson was). Not just one or two, but dozens of stories about Allen and his family. Louis, Eugene, and Allen seemed to frequently make the papers in New Jersey in the 1940s. I spent hours reading through their achievements and milestones and then realized that I should probably share them here.

Even more interesting were poems and articles by Allen Ginsberg – from the age of ten and up! I was amazed. If I have time, I will transcribe some of these pictures as some of them are not easy to read.

(click on each image to see a larger version.)

Allen Ginsberg’s First Poem?

I was very amused to read this short poem from the Morning Call in January, 1938. Ginsberg would have been just eleven years old at the time!

A few weeks later, he submitted this:

This prose-poem was written in July, 1937, when Allen was just ten! It is surely his earliest published poetry.

Allen Ginsberg Reports on High School

Young Allen had been assigned to write about events at school for the Paterson Evening News. In 1941, at fifteen years old, he wrote the following, from June and September. The June article appeared next to a story about his brother, Eugene. (Again, please click the image to view it properly.)

In the next column from June, we can see his sense of humor at work. He writes:

Vacation, O happy daze, is coming. The last day of school, four days from now, is Friday, June 27. This is the month of the year when parents discover that their sons have not let education go to their heads.

Ginsberg wrote many of these columns for the newspaper until September, 1941, when he announced he was being transferred to another school.

Father and Son

There were many stories in the news that featured both Louis and Allen Ginsberg, including this one, from 1942, in which Louis wins a prize and Allen serves soft drinks.

Young Allen Debates

As a teenager, Allen Ginsberg loved to debate serious issues and was not afraid to take his opinions to the newspapers, writing letters to the editor that fiercely (but politely) set forth his position on matters of grave international importance. Here, we can see one letter that he wrote and also a reply by his brother, Eugene.

Fledgling Activism

Allen was politically active later in his life, but in this letter from 1941, we can see him learning to use the press to acquire better facilities for his fellow students.

Here is another version, printed in the Patterson Evening News, with a little humor:

In the next clipping, from 1942, Allen is arguing for conservationism even in times of war:

Allen Receives Scholarship

Here is a rare picture of Allen Ginsberg from July, 1946, when he was twenty years old.

Early Achievements

In these two clippings, we can see a little more of teenage Allen’s life.

The Young Poet Wins an Award

Finally, let’s finish this with young Allen winning a cash prize for his poem, “Death in Violence” in 1947.

David S. Wills

David S. Wills is the founder and editor of Beatdom literary journal and the author of Scientologist! William S. Burroughs the Weird Cult and World Citizen: Allen Ginsberg as Traveller. His next book, High White Notes: The Rise and Fall of Gonzo Journalism comes out in November, 2021.

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David S. Wills

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