The Allen Ginsberg Festival in S.F.

The Allen Ginsberg Festival in S.F.

The Contemporary Jewish Museum’s hosting of “Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg” overlaps with City Lights’ celebration of its 60th year this week with the Allen Ginsberg Festival, which the CJM co-produced with City Lights and a host of other local organizations to, the museum says, “celebrate the life and legacy of Allen Ginsberg and his lasting relationship with the Bay Area.”

The exhibit features some 80 intimate photos Ginsberg took of friends and later inscribed when his longtime archivist, Bill Morgan, found them while organizing his manuscripts. (Read more about the show at

Morgan became Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s archivist when, for his master’s degree thesis, he compiled a bibliography of the poet/City Lights owner’s work. When Ferlinghetti referred Morgan to Ginsberg, the two became friends and worked together from the early ’80s until Ginsberg’s death in 1997.

In that time, Morgan became an expert on the Beat Generation and collected perhaps the largest private collection of writings by and about Ginsberg and Ferlinghetti, writing “Lawrence Ferlinghetti: A Comprehensive Bibliography to 1980,” “The Works of Allen Ginsberg, 1941-1994: A Descriptive Bibliography” and “The Response to Allen Ginsberg, 1926-1994: A Bibliography of Secondary Sources,” as well as “I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg” and “The Typewriter Is Holy: The Complete, Uncensored History of the Beat Generation.”

“Everyone’s archive is different,” Morgan says via e-mail. “Allen’s is unique because he saved everything from childhood. It is a treasure trove of journals, correspondence, and drafts of manuscripts. Enough to keep scholars going for a hundred years.”

When asked about the continued relevance of Ginsberg’s legacy and to what degree the poet’s personality plays a part therein, Morgan responded: “Allen was fond of saying ‘candor prevents paranoia’ and that seems to be true. He was honest, sometimes to a fault with people, but in the end, you always knew where he stood on any issue. He was true to himself and his work. If writers need an example of how to write openly, his is a good model. He ‘caught himself thinking’ often, which is a very hard thing to do when you think about it.”

Morgan has also edited or co-edited a half dozen other Beat-related works, including collections of Ginsberg’s essays and his final poems, Gregory Corso’s letters, and – with City Lights – “The Beat Generation in New York: A Walking Tour of Jack Kerouac’s City” and “The Beat Generation in San Francisco: A Literary Tour.”

He will be on hand for much of the Ginsberg Festival, giving guided tours of North Beach at 1 p.m. Thursday and Saturday ($10-$15); he will also be in conversation with David Meltzer at 6:30 p.m. Thursday ($15), talking about Ginsberg the myth and Ginsberg the man, as well as the legacy of the Beat generation. On Friday at 1:30 p.m., Morgan will speak at Stanford University, the home of Ginsberg’s archives.

The festival also includes panels at the Mechanics’ Institute Library on Friday night (5:30 p.m., $15) with dramatic readings; a poetry Shabbat on Saturday (7 p.m., free) with Neeli Cherkovski, Sam Sax and Daphne Gottlieb; and concludes on Sunday with “Howl Legacy: The Continuing Battle for Free Expression” (3 p.m., free with CJM admission), moderated by City Lights’ Peter Maravelis with Rebecca Farmer of the ACLU, Mark Rumold of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and James Wheaton of the First Amendment Project.


The Allen Ginsberg Festival: Thursday (July 11)-Sunday. $10-$15. Various locations.

This article originally appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle.

Photo by Christopher Felver