Allen Ginsberg was six years-old when his mother was committed to an insane asylum. He was 18 and a student at Columbia when he met Jack Kerouac. He was expelled from the university the next year and joined the Merchant Marine. In 1948 he was back in New York, sitting in his Harlem apartment, when he had a vision of the poet Blake. He described it as “a sense of cosmic consciousness, vibrations, understanding, awe, and wonder and surprise." But writing poetry didn't pay the rent, so he got a job at an advertising agency located in the Empire State Building, where he wrote ads for Ipana toothpaste.
On October 7, 1955 Ginsberg read Howl for the first time to an audience in San Francisco. He was living in North Berkeley then, Kerouac was staying with him. They rode the bus together across the Bay Bridge and then bummed a ride in Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s Aston Martin to the Six Gallery near Fillmore and Union. Ginsberg was the fifth poet on the program. He began with the famous line: “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness.” Afterwards, Ginsburg, Kerouac, and a few others went out for Chinese. He was 29 and had finally arrived. Allen Ginsberg appears five times in A Book of Ages.