A Poet Scorned
On the 90th anniversary of his birth, Beat Generation
icon Allen Ginsberg is still an outsider in his home state.
By Kevin Coyne
When Allen Ginsberg came home to Paterson in 1966 to read his poems at the
YMHA with his father, Louis, a revered
English teacher at Central High School
and a poet himself, he made a comment
that would not have raised eyebrows in
his usual Bohemian circles. But Paterson was far from Bohemian. Ginsberg
said that he had just smoked pot at the
Great Falls. Mayor Frank X. Graves Jr.
instructed the police to issue a warrant
for Ginsberg’s arrest.
“He couldn’t help being outrageous,”
fellow Paterson poet Maria Mazziotti
Gillan says of Ginsberg, famed for his
epic 1950s poems Howl and Kaddish—
both with references to Paterson.
Ginsberg was not arrested, but for
years he remained reluctant to make
public appearances in Paterson. He
finally came back in 1980, when Gillan
invited him to an event sponsored by
the Paterson Public Library (where
Ginsberg’s stepmother was a board
member) and the Poetry Center at Pas-
saic County Community College, which
Gillan founded and still runs. “It was
Ginsberg, who died in 1997, at age