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Peter Orlovsky, poet and partner of Allen Ginsberg, has died

May 31, 2010 | 11:56 am

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Peter Orlovsky, longtime partner of Allen Ginsberg and a poet in his own right, died May 30 in Vermont of lung cancer. He was 76.

Orlovsky met Ginsberg in San Francisco in 1954, before Ginsberg wrote his seminal poem, "Howl." Published in 1956, "Howl" was the subject of a 1957 obscenity trial that became a landmark free-expression case. Afterward, Ginsberg and Orlovsky moved to Paris, where they stayed with Gregory Corso, William Burroughs and others in a boarding house that would become known as the Beat Hotel.

In the early 1960s, Orlovsky and Ginsberg traveled in India together, where they both became devotees of meditation. It's Orlovsky who provided the smiling, besuited meditation model in the 1984 video below. Ginsberg sings and plays harmonium.

Although they spent time apart, Ginsberg and Orlovsky's relationship endured for more than 30 years. Orlovsky's poetry was collected by City Lights Books in 1977; three of those poems are online. His papers are at the Harry Ransom Center in Texas.

Orlovsky taught at Naropa University's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, founded by Ginsberg and Anne Waldman in 1974. Waldman was at Orlovsky's bedside when he died. "By his side now, looking into his eyes told out love, I thanked him for his presence in our lives, his poetry his care and love for Allen, his work at Naropa," she wrote. "Ah, I thought a flash of recognition shivering through! slight movement of mouth, light coming in on his handsome face through the window now, and Judy singing om a hum vajra guru padma siddhi hum in crystal voice said 'don’t be afraid.' " Her poetic tribute is best read in its entirety.

-- Carolyn Kellogg
twitter.com/paperhaus

Photo: Peter Orlovsky, right, with Allen Ginsberg in 1978. Credit: Ludwig Urnig via Wikimedia Commons

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