The moving love letters between Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky
These two writers maintained an epistolary romance which stands out due to its elegance and tenderness.
My Dear Boy: Gay Love Letters Through the Centuries is an anthology which gathers the dissidence, tenderness and passion of romantic homosexual love –– The volume includes the correspondence between Allen Ginsberg and his lover, the poet Peter Orlovsky.
The writers met for the first time in San Francisco in 1954, and they embarked on what Ginsberg referred to as their ‘marriage’, which lasted from that first encounter to the moment he passed away in his lover’s arms. The love shared by Ginsberg and Orlovsky, which remained promiscuous and passionate, is far removed from the ‘Beat’ world and its association to drugs, travelling and all-embracing freedom, as if it had been built in a bubble made of a different material to that of the world they inhabited.
Their letters, filled with mistakes and lacking punctuation marks, denote the outbursts of intense, swift and genuine emotions that transcended grammar. But above all else, these ardent letters converge with the tenderness they both felt, which emerges as a by-product of their separation and their geographic locations. In a letter written on January 20, 1958, which Ginsberg wrote for ‘Petey’ from Paris, the author described his encounter with his dear friend William S. Burroughs, another iconic figure in Queer literature. His encounter with Burroughs was an exchange of epiphanies and tranquilising truths, as if Burroughs could assure him that everybody had been saved at last:
O Heart O Love everything is suddenly turned to gold! Don’t be afraid don’t worry the most astounding beautiful thing has happened here! I don’t know where to begin but the most important. When Bill [ed: William S. Burroughs] came I, we, thought it was the same old Bill mad, but something had happened to Bill in the meantime since we last saw him . . . . but last night finally Bill and I sat down facing each other across the kitchen table and looked eye to eye and talked, and I confessed all my doubt and misery — and in front of my eyes he turned into an Angel!
What happened to him in Tangiers this last few months? It seems he stopped writing and sat on his bed all afternoons thinking and meditating alone & stopped drinking — and finally dawned on his consciousness, slowly and repeatedly, every day, for several months — awareness of “a benevolent sentient (feeling) center to the whole Creation” — he had apparently, in his own way, what I have been so hung up in myself and you, a vision of big peaceful Lovebrain. . . .
I woke up this morning with great bliss of freedom & joy in my heart, Bill’s saved, I’m saved, you’re saved, we’re all saved, everything has been all rapturous ever since — I only feel sad that perhaps you left as worried when we waved goodby and kissed so awkwardly — I wish I could have that over to say goodby to you happier & without the worries and doubts I had that dusty dusk when you left… — Bill is changed nature, I even feel much changed, great clouds rolled away, as I feel when you and I were in rapport, well, our rapport has remained in me, with me, rather than losing it, I’m feeling to everyone, something of the same as between us.
A couple of weeks later, Orlovsky wrote a letter to Ginsberg from New York. The style denotes the lightness of an epiphany:
…don’t worry dear Allen things are going ok — we’ll change the world yet to our desire — even if we got to die — but OH the world’s got 25 rainbows on my window sill. . .
Upon receiving the letter, Ginsberg wrote back and quoted Shakespeare, as if this was the first time he’d ever truly understood Sonnet 30:
I have been running around with mad mean poets & world-eaters here & was longing for kind words from heaven which you wrote, came as fresh as a summer breeze & “when I think on thee dear friend / all loses are restored & sorrows end,” came over & over in my mind — it’s the end of a Shakespeare Sonnet — he must have been happy in love too. I had never realized that before. . . .
Write me soon baby, I’ll write you big long poem I feel as if you were god that I pray to –
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