Peter Orlovsky, poet, musician,
farmer, teacher, and companion of poet Allen
Ginsberg, was born July 8, 1933, on the Lower East Side of
New York City to Oleg and Katherine Orlovsky, one of five children
who grew up in the Northport section of Long Island, New York.
When he was still a teen, his parents separated after a series
of failed business ventures and bouts with alcoholism. Orlovsky
moved to Queens with his mother and siblings. Orlovsky dropped
out of school in his senior year and began supporting himself
at age 17 due to family economic problems. After many odd jobs,
he began working as an orderly at Creedmore State Mental Hospital
in New York giving him an opportunity to complete the requirements
for a high school diploma.
In 1953, Orlovsky was drafted
into the military as the Korean War began. Due to his erratic
behavior and conspicuous anti-military sentiments at boot camp,
army psychiatrists ordered his transfer. He spent the rest of
his military service as a medic in a San Francisco hospital.
Following his discharge from
the army, Orlovsky moved in with San Francisco painter Robert
LaVigne as both model and companion. In 1954, Orlovsky was introduced
to LaVigne's friend, Allen Ginsberg.
Soon after this first meeting, Orlovsky and Ginsberg
became lovers and moved in together, defining their relationship
as a marriage. Despite periods of separation, this arrangement
remained intact until Ginsberg's
death in April 1997.
Prior to meeting Ginsberg,
Orlovsky had made no deliberate attempts at becoming a poet.
With Ginsberg's encouragement, Orlovsky
began writing in 1957 while the pair was living in Paris. His
early compositional process began at the typewriter as spontaneous
outbursts of ideas. From that point on, he often carried small
notebooks to document his experiences, dreams, and impressionistic
Orlovsky's relationship with
Ginsberg exposed him to individuals
involved with the literary and artistic renaissance emerging
in San Francisco during the 1950s. Accompanied by such Beat luminaries
as Jack Kerouac, William
S. Burroughs, and Gregory Corso,
Orlovsky traveled extensively for several years, both with and
without Ginsberg, throughout the
Middle East, Northern Africa, India, and Europe. The fragile
mental condition of his brothers, Julius and Lafcadio, often
abbreviated these trips, forcing his return to New York. Orlovsky
and Ginsberg eventually
settled into an apartment on New York's Lower East Side.
During the 1970s, Orlovsky spent
much of his time on a farm in Cherry Valley, New York, writing,
playing music, growing his own food, and communing with nature.
In 1974, Orlovsky joined the faculty of the Jack
Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute
in Boulder, Colorado, to teach a course entitled "Poetry
for Dumb Students."
Although Orlovsky never regarded
writing as a career, he received a $10,000 grant from the National
Endowment for the Arts in 1979 to continue his creative endeavors.
Orlovsky has supported many social
and political causes by participating in anti-nuclear demonstrations;
LEMAR, a pro-marijuana organization; and the League for Sexual
Freedom. Orlovsky and Ginsberg's
frank and open discussion of their homosexual marriage has been
credited with increasing gay consciousness in America.
To date, Orlovsky's work has
been published in Dear Allen: Ship will land Jan 23, 58 (1971),
Lepers Cry (1972), Clean Asshole Poems & Smiling Vegetable
Songs: Poems 1957-1977 (1978), and Straight Hearts' Delight:
Love Poems and Selected Letters (1980), a collaboration with
Ginsberg. His work has also appeared
in New American Poetry: 1945-1960 (1960), The Beatitude Anthology
(1965), as well as the literary magazines Yugen and Outsider.
Orlovsky has appeared in two films, Andy Warhol's Couch (1965)
and photographer Robert Frank's
Me and My Brother (1969), a film documenting Julius Orlovsky's
( Top of Page )
A rainbow comes pouring into my window, I am electrified.
Songs burst from my breast, all my crying stops, mistory fills
I look for my shues under my bed.
A fat colored woman becomes my mother.
I have no false teeth yet. Suddenly ten children sit on my lap.
I grow a beard in one day.
I drink a hole bottle of wine with my eyes shut.
I draw on paper and I feel I am two again. I want everybody to
talk to me.
I empty the garbage on the tabol.
I invite thousands of bottles into my room, June bugs I call them.
I use the typewritter as my pillow.
A spoon becomes a fork before my eyes.
Bums give all their money to me.
All I need is a mirror for the rest of my life.
My frist five years I lived in chicken coups with not enough
My mother showed her witch face in the night and told stories of
My dreams lifted me right out of my bed.
I dreamt I jumped into the nozzle of a gun to fight it out with a
I met Kafka and he jumped over a building to get away from me.
My body turned into sugar, poured into tea I found the meaning
All I needed was ink to be a black boy.
I walk on the street looking for eyes that will caress my face.
I sang in the elevators believing I was going to heaven.
I got off at the 86th floor, walked down the corridor looking for
My comes turns into a silver dollar on the bed.
I look out the window and see nobody, I go down to the street,
look up at my window and see nobody.
So I talk to the fire hydrant, asking "Do you have bigger tears
then I do?"
Nobody around, I piss anywhere.
My Gabriel horns, my Gabriel horns: unfold the cheerfulies,
my gay jubilation.
Nov. 24th, 1957, Paris
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Morning again, nothing has to be done,
maybe buy a piano or make fudge.
At least clean the room up for sure like my farther I've done flick
the ashes & butts over the bed side on the floor.
But frist of all wipe my glasses and drink the water
to clean the smelly mouth.
A nock on the door, a cat walks in, behind her the Zoo's baby
elephant demanding fresh pancakes-I cant stand these
hallucinations aney more.
Time for another cigerette and then let the curtains rise, then I
knowtice the dirt makes a road to the garbage pan
No ice box so a dried up grapefruit.
Is there any one saintly thing I can do to my room, paint it pink
maybe or instal an elevator from the bed to the floor,
maybe take a bath on the bed?
Whats the use of liveing if I cant make paradise in my own
For this drop of time upon my eyes
like the endurance of a red star on a cigerate
makes me feel life splits faster than sissors.
I know if I could shave myself the bugs around my face would
The holes in my shues are only temporary, I understand that.
My rug is dirty but whose that isent?
There comes a time in life when everybody must take a piss in
the sink -here let me paint the window black for a minute.
Thro a plate & brake it out of naughtiness-or maybe just
innocently accidentally drop it wile walking around the
Before the mirror I look like a sahara desert gost,
or on the bed I resemble a crying mummey hollaring for air,
or on the tabol I feel like Napoleon.
But now for the main task of the day - wash my underwear -
two months abused - what would the ants say about that?
How can I wash my clothes - why I'd, I'd, I'd be a woman if I did
No, I'd rather polish my sneakers than that and as for the floor
its more creative to paint it then clean it up.
As for the dishes I can do that for I am thinking of getting a job in
My life and my room are like two huge bugs following me
around the globe.
Thank god I have an innocent eye for nature.
I was born to remember a song about love - on a hill a butterfly
makes a cup that I drink from, walking over a bridge of
Dec. 27th, 1957, Paris
My Bed is Covered Yellow
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My bed is covered yellow - Oh Sun, I sit on you
Oh golden field I lay on you
Oh money I dream of you
More, More, cried the bed - talk to me more -
Oh bed that taked the weight of the world -
all the lost dreams laid on you
Oh bed that grows no hair, that cannot be fucked
or can be fucked
Oh bed crumbs of all ages spiled on you
Oh yellow bed march to the sun whear yr journey will be done
Oh 50 lbs. of bed that takes 400 more lbs-
how strong you are
Oh bed, only for man & not for animals
yellow bed when will the animals have equal rights?
Oh 4 legged bed off the floor forever built
Oh yellow bed all the news of the world
lay on you at one time or another
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Make my grave shape of heart so like a flower be free aired
& handsome felt,
Grave root pillow, tung up from grave & wigle at
blown up clowd.
Ear turnes close to underlayer of green felt moss & sound
of rain dribble thru this layer
down to the roots that will tickle my ear.
Hay grave, my toes need cutting so file away
in sound curve or
Garbage grave, way above my head, blood will soon
trickle in my ear -
no choise but the grave, so cat & sheep are daisey
Train will tug my grave, my breath hueing gentil vapor
between weel & track.
So kitten string & ball, jumpe over this mound so
gently & cutely
So my toe can curl & become a snail & go curiously
on its way.