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Happy Birthday, Mr. Ginsberg

The beat poet would have been 83.

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Allen Ginsburg would have turned 83 today. We’ll celebrate him with his musical rendition of “Father Death Blues,” the poem with which he once said he wanted to be remembered.

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By David Cohen

Annotations to Amitendranath Tagore’s Sung Poetry
“In later days, remembering this I shall certainly go mad.”

Reading Sung poems, I think of my poems to Neal
dead few years now Jack underground
invisible–their faces rise in my mind.
Did I write truthfully of them? In later times
I saw them little, not much difference they’re dead.
They live in books and memory, strong as on earth.

Cherry Valley, April 20, 1973
Allen Ginsberg, Collected Poems

Allen Ginsberg died this past week, and if you’ve read his poems, it seems he had been preparing for this all his life. I have a lot of his books, which he signed and drew pictures in. Flowers and faces, mandalas and mantras, and all inscribed to me. He took his time, so diligently, to make these special inscriptions. He was back in San Jose on the occasion of his appearance for the Center for Literary Arts’ Major Authors Series in September 1992. Metro, a sponsor of the series, hosted a reception in his honor at our downtown San Jose headquarters. During a tour of our offices, we shared stories about people we knew in common and how each of them had touched our lives. Here was one of America’s greatest poets. The leader of the Beat Generation, the coiner of the term “flower power” in the ’60s, a cultural legend in his own time, swapping stories and sharing his personal anecdotes as easily and as naturally as if we had known each other for years. He was a wise man who was easy to care about.

At a small dinner party at Emile’s Restaurant, before his talk at San Jose State University, I was asked to give the blessing before we ate. Allen Ginsberg inspired that kind of thing. I remembered a special invocation a wise teacher use to say before our meals:

All life is one, and everything that l

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Happy Birthday, Mr. Ginsberg

The beat poet would have been 83.

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