PETER ORLOVSKY poet and Allen Ginsberg’s soulmate, born (d: May 2010); Orlovsky met Ginsberg while working as a model for the painter Robert La Vigne in San Francisco in December 1954. Prior to meeting Ginsberg, Orlovsky had made no deliberate attempts at becoming a poet.
With Ginsberg’s encouragement, he began writing in 1957 while the pair were living in Paris. Accompanied by other beat writers, Orlovsky traveled extensively for several years throughout the Middle East, Northern Africa, India, and Europe. Ginsberg and Orlovsky wrote and spoke openly about their relationship, which they deemed a marriage.
Because of Ginsberg’s prominence, the two men were social pioneers, the first Gay married couple that many people had ever heard of. He and Ginsberg lived together on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and on a farm in Cherry Valley in Upstate New York, for a time. It was Ginsberg who encouraged Orlovsky to write poetry, and though he published only a few slim volumes, his voice was singular, and his early work was admired by William Carlos Williams and Gregory Corso. It had outsider-ish originality (the spelling and phrasing were eccentric), a blunt, innocent earthiness, especially about bodily functions.
In 1974, Orlovsky joined the faculty of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, teaching poetry. In 1979 he received a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to continue his creative endeavors. Orlovsky died of lung cancer. He lived in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.