Allen and Peter.

Despite the fact that nonfiction makes up the bulk of my writing portfolio, I still feel as if I have the soul of a poet. Throughout my creative career, I have maintained a fascination with Allen Ginsberg. If William Blake is my Illuminary Multimedia Muse and Walt Whitman is my Influential Literary Fairy Grandfather, then Allen Ginsberg is for all intensive purposes my adored and beloved Poetic House Mother. I came to him in the creative wellspring of my youth, flinging my lower-case letters and mirror-writing at his feet, and finding my home in a voice that resonated with me.

I don’t even remember when I first discovered Allen Ginsberg, but I do remember watching the news of his death broadcast over Channel One on the rickety television in my high school journalism class, and I remember how I immediately began writing a frantic lament in my notebook, a long poem celebrating his life and explaining what he had meant to me. If I were to be perfectly frank and nakedly honest with myself, it’s quite possible that I’d never even heard of Allen Ginsberg before that morning when I heard the report of his death. All the same, it was immediately clear to me that we were literary soulmates, creative kindred spirits, and I wanted nothing more than to follow in his bearded, beatnik footsteps, throw caution to the wind, and shock the corners of western civilization with my pen.

While I was sick and feverish last weekend, I watched the film Howl which follows the 1957 obscenity trial about Ginsberg’s poem by the same name, juxtaposed with an exploration of Ginsberg’s early life, a reenactment of the debut reading of the poem, and interesting phallic-filled animated interpretations of the work. It told the story of what led Ginsberg to write Howl, his explorations of his homosexuality, his adventures with Kerouac and Cassady, and his continual anxiety about the state of his own sanity. Most of this I already knew, having studied those years at length. What I didn’t know, however, was Allen’s story once he came to California, when his life started coming together.

According to the film, Allen was seeing a therapist. He worked a steady job doing market research, which stifled his creativity but offered security and a good income. And, Allen met Peter.

I don’t know how I missed the story of Peter Orlovsky in my earlier explorations of Ginsberg’s life, but this was the first time I realized that a 28-year-old beat poet in San Fransisco fell in love with a 21-year-old art model and Korean War veteran in December of 1954.

(While researching the age difference between Allen & Peter — which happens to be seven years, the same age difference between myself and my husband — I also discovered that I unintentionally got married on Allen Ginsberg’s birthday. But I digress.)

In the movie, the actor who plays Ginsberg talks about falling in love with Peter — this beautiful story about finding someone who loves and accepts Allen for everything that he is. Of course, the unspoken situation was that Ginsberg had finally accepted himself for who he was, too. Now, he was finally free to open up all the love in his heart to another person.

And I completely understand what that is like.

Then, Allen talks about a conversation he has with his therapist. The therapist sits him down and basically asks him what his ideal life would look like. Allen explains that he’d have just a small flat with Peter, and that he’d spend all his time writing, smoking pot, and contemplating the universe. Instead of thinking he was completely crazy, his therapist just smiled and asked him, “Well, then, why don’t you?” In doing so, he granted Ginsberg permission to live his dream.

And — that’s what I want, too. Minus the smoking pot part and adding a “making babies” part. That’s the life I want for myself — one where I write madly, passionately, intensely, copiously, and send my writing everywhere, to everyone, to anyone who wants to read it. No longer messages in bottles or files sitting collecting dust in archived folders on computer servers or words tangled in knots inside the synapses of my own skull — instead, words alive, in circulation, moving, published, republished, from lips to ear to hand to mouth. I want to walk around my small city, noticing and looking and observing and contemplating everything around me. I want my afternoons to ring out with the laughter of my amazing children. I want to spend my evenings wrapped up in the loving embrace of my husband. And I have permission to live my dream, too.

Considering that Howl is a film about beat poets, I naturally assumed the love story for Allen and Peter must have had a tragic end. Lies, deception, betrayal, early death — just like Kerouac and Cassady and the rest of them.

But, no.

Allen and Peter lived happily ever after.

They were partners for life, in their own unconventional and nontraditional way. When Allen died in 1997, Peter was right there with him. They worked on the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics together. Peter was part of the faculty at Naropa for a long time. They continued living and breathing and loving and challenging the world’s crazy assumptions about life. They continued building and rebuilding their dreams together throughout the years.

It’s ridiculous, I know, but I love that. I love that Ginsberg not only got a love story, but also a love story with a happy ending. He deserved that. Everybody deserves that — a complimentary partner you can build an incredible history with. And it seems to happen so rarely, especially with writers.

I raise my glass to you both, Allen and Peter. Yours was a beautiful love.

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