Peter Anton Orlovsky
was an American poet.
Life and work
Orlovsky was born in the Lower East Side
The Lower East Side, LES, is a neighborhood in the southeastern part of the New York City borough of Manhattan. It is roughly bounded by Allen Street, East Houston Street, Essex Street, Canal Street, Eldridge Street, East Broadway, and Grand Street....
of New York City, the son of Katherine (née Schwarten) and Oleg Orlovsky, a Russian
The Russian people are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Russia, speaking the Russian language and primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries....
immigrant. He was raised in poverty and was forced to drop out of Newtown High School in his senior year so he could support his impoverished family. After many odd jobs, he began working as an orderly
A medical orderly , is a hospital attendant whose job consists of assisting medical and/or nursing staff with various nursing and/or medical interventions. These duties are classified as routine tasks involving no risk for the patient.- Job details :Orderlies are often utilized in various hospital...
at Creedmoor State Mental Hospital, known today as Creedmoor Psychiatric Center
Creedmoor Psychiatric Center is a psychiatric hospital in Queens Village, Queens, New York, United States that provides inpatient, outpatient and residential services for severely mentally ill patients...
In 1953 Orlovsky was drafted into the United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...
for the Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...
at the age of 19. Army psychiatrists ordered his transfer off the front to work as a medic in a San Francisco hospital.
He 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, Orlovsky 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. Orlovsky was Ginsberg's lover in an open relationship
An open relationship is an interpersonal relationship in which the parties want to be together but agree to a form of a non-monogamous relationship. This means that they agree that a romantic or sexual relationship with another person is accepted, permitted, or tolerated...
until Ginsberg's death in 1997.
In 1974, Orlovsky joined the faculty of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado
Boulder is the county seat and most populous city of Boulder County and the 11th most populous city in the U.S. state of Colorado. Boulder is located at the base of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains at an elevation of...
, teaching poetry. His gentleness and kindness was opposite to Ginsberg's coldness. At the Jack Kerouac Conference in Boulder, 1983, Ginsberg booed and raised thumbs down to a large audience when poet Hedwig Gorski
Dr. Hedwig Gorski is an American performance poet and an avant-garde artist who labels her aesthetic as American Futurism...
introduced her verse-drama Booby, Mama
at the Midnight Reading of Younger Poets. Orlovsky apologized to her later while picking up styrofoam cups for the trash after the event. In 1979 he received a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts
The National Endowment for the Arts is an independent agency of the United States federal government that offers support and funding for projects exhibiting artistic excellence. It was created by an act of the U.S. Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. Its current...
to continue his creative endeavors.
In May 2010, friends reported that Orlovsky, who had been battling lung cancer for several months, was moved from his home in St. Johnsbury, Vermont
St. Johnsbury is the shire town of Caledonia County, Vermont, United States. The population was 7,571 at the 2000 census. St. Johnsbury is located approximately northwest of the Connecticut River and south of the Canadian border.St...
to the Vermont Respite House in Williston
Williston is a town in Chittenden County, Vermont, United States. The population was 8,698 at the 2010 census, an increase of over 1,000 people since the 2000 census...
. He died there on May 30, 2010, age 76.
- Dear Allen, Ship will land Jan 23, 58 (1971)
- Lepers Cry (1972)
- Clean Asshole Poems & Smiling Vegetable Songs (1978) (reprinted 1992)
- Straight Hearts' Delight: Love Poems and Selected Letters (with Allen Ginsberg) (1980)
- Dick Tracy's Gelber Hut und andere Gedichte (German translation) (1984)
His work has also appeared in The New American Poetry 1945–1960
(1960), The Beatitude Anthology
(1965), as well as the literary magazines Yugen
. Orlovsky appeared in three films: Andy Warhol
Andrew Warhola , known as Andy Warhol, was an American painter, printmaker, and filmmaker who was a leading figure in the visual art movement known as pop art...
(1965) and in two films by photographer Robert Frank
Robert Frank , born in Zürich, Switzerland, is an important figure in American photography and film. His most notable work, the 1958 photobook titled The Americans, was influential, and earned Frank comparisons to a modern-day de Tocqueville for his fresh and skeptical outsider's view of American...
, Me and My Brother
(1969) (a film documenting his brother Julius Orlovsky's mental illness) and One Hour (C'est Vrai)
(a 60 minute one-take video made for French television in 1992).
- Charters, Ann (ed.). The Portable Beat Reader. Penguin Books. New York. 1992. ISBN 0-670-83885-3 (hc); ISBN 0-14-015102-8 (pbk)
- Peter Orlovksy Papers at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library
The Columbia University's Rare Book & Manuscript Library is located on the 6th Floor of Columbia University's Butler Library. The library holds the special collections of Columbia University, as well as the Columbia University Archives. The range of the library's holdings spans more than 4,000...
, Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...
- Four Poems
- Peter Orlovsky's papers at at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin
- New York Times obituary
- Obituary in The Independent
The Independent is a British national morning newspaper published in London by Independent Print Limited, owned by Alexander Lebedev since 2010. It is nicknamed the Indy, while the Sunday edition, The Independent on Sunday, is the Sindy. Launched in 1986, it is one of the youngest UK national daily...
by Marcus Williamson