Until now, the poet Peter Orlovsky, who was Allen Ginsberg's lover for more than forty years, has been the neglected member of the Beat Generation. Because he lived in Ginsberg's shadow, his achievements were seldom noted and his contributions to literature have not been fully recognised. Now, this first collection of Orlovsky's writings traces his fascinating life in his own words. It also tells, for the first time, the intimate story of his relationship with Ginsberg. Drawn from previously unpublished journals, correspondence, photographs and poems, Peter Orlovsky, a Life in Words, begins as Orlovsky is discharged from the Army; follows the young man through years of self-doubt and details his first meeting with Ginsberg in San Francisco from his own perspective. In never-before-heard detail, Orlovsky describes his travels around the world with Ginsberg, Kerouac, Burroughs and Corso. The book also delves into the contradictions that ultimately defined him: best known as Ginsberg's lover, Orlovsky was heterosexual and always longed to be with women; his spirit was prescient of the flower children of the sixties - especially his inclinations toward devotion and love - but in the end his use of drugs took its toll on his body and mind, silencing one of the most original and inspiring voices of his generation.
“Although Orlovsky is best known as the partner of Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg, he was also a prolific, though mostly unpublished, writer. Morgan changes that with this judicious selection of Orlovksy’s poems, prose, correspondence, and journal entries…The surreal, scatological, charming, and occasionally transcendent results bring a new perspective to key moments in Beat history, such as the assembly of William S. Burrough’s Naked Lunch manuscript in Tangier…Morgan makes a compelling case for [Orlovsky’s] reappraisal. The intensely personal, picaresque adventures he narrates here deserve the attention of Ginsberg admirers and Beat scholars.”
"Editor Bill Morgan has assembled a wide range of Orlovsky writings in chronological order accompanied by numerous well-chosen photographs, many not widely seen before, along with frequently inserted editor's notes to support contextual flow between selections…It thus adds up to an autobiography of sorts, at times a painfully honest one, and it presents a heretofore missing subnarrative of the Beat Generation."
“This rich and valuable collection of diary entries, journal notations, letters, poems and dreams gathered from various archives with copious, careful, and helpful editorial commentary by Bill Morgan answers my unasked question (how does it feel to live with America’s most famous poet?) and helps to reveal an unexplained and previously unexplored corner of Beat history.”
—John Tytell for American Book Review
“Peter Orlovsky was the secret heart of the Beats. He wrote and roamed among them. This book contains unknown fragments of their world—the words of their orphaned angel.”
—Patti Smith, Poet, Singer/Songwriter
“‘Can anyone talk to me, hold me as I am?’ This is a poignant, intimate, and captivating document of the inner life of Peter Orlovsky, life-long mainstay to Allen Ginsberg, and crucial to the Beat annals. ‘Sad noble Peter, truly an angel and not my joke boy,’ Allen wrote in 1955. Yet Peter was keenly present albeit a shy participant in one of the most exciting periods in radical belletristic cultural and political time. I knew him as poet, singer, fellow-Buddhist Naropa teacher, and friend. I can still hear his yodel as he rode his tractor. May he have his say here, out of the shadows and into our hearts.”
—Anne Waldman, Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, Naropa University
“Peter Orlovsky was one of a kind, and his poetry was one of a kind. It’s in-your-face poetry, at once comic and tragic.”
—Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Poet