Allen Ginsberg's birthday was a few days ago. I know he's been dead for 14 years (half of my life), but I still want to take a moment and reflect on his influence.
When i was 12 I was really into The Beatles. I mean- obsessed. I had all their records on vinyl and CD (some miscellaneous 8-tracks and cassettes, as well), VHS copies of Magical Mystery Tour and Help!, a DVD copy of A Hard Day's Night (which I watched until it could literally play no more), books, magazines, toys, etc. This is all important to note because through The Fab Four I found a plethora of other musicians, writers, artists, and cultural influences that I wouldn't have known about until later. My favorite album is Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks. Hands down. I'm sure that I would have listened to it sometime in my life but not at the right time. John Lennon and George Harrison- in a way- led me to listening more to Bob Dylan. I was brought to a gateway of influence via Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band: William S. Burroughs, Lenny Bruce, Aleister Crowley, Terry Southern, Dylan Thomas, Carl Jung, H.G. Wells, Oscar Wilde, Karl Marx, James Joyce, etc.
When I was deep into The Beatles, their history, and the culture around them I concurrently started reading the Beat Poets. Allen Ginsberg was friends with Bob Dylan and sat with John Lennon at his infamous "Give Peace a Chance" recording. What's wonderful about culture/literature is that (generally) influence is infinite. I was listening to The Beatles and Bob Dylan and that led me to Allen Ginsberg. Allen Ginsberg led me to the other Beats, as well as Walt Whitman, Amiri Baraka, William Blake, Arthur Rimbaud, William Carlos Williams, Gabriel Garcia Lorca, Anne Sexton, (the list goes on).
I don't think my writing style (even in poetry) is influenced by Ginsberg directly. Of course, when I was in high school that could be argued (thank god no one remembers me writing and reading an "updated" version of "America" in protest of the War in Iraq). Ginsberg did teach me that the passion that leads you to the deepest depths of loneliness was ok and that we could escape insanity (though sometimes we had to kowtow to it first).
Later, as I started studying literature and writing in hopes of making it my life's work, I was told that it is kind of laughable and somewhat juvenile to hold so steadfast to the Beat Poets. They are still considered outliers of literature. But I have a real soft spot for my own "lonely old courage teacher."
Allen Ginsberg led the 13-year-old Shannon to the expanse of poetry and pushed me in. He taught me that a sunflower is not a locomotive. He taught me about peaches and penumbras. Not to mention- that it was ok to feel all the feelings...even if I felt them all at once.