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   Peter Orlovsky Papers 1954-1971.

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Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Peter Orlovsky Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

COinS Metadata available (e.g., for Zotero).

Summary Information


The papers of the poet, member of the Beat Generation, and Allen Ginsberg's lover. The collection is comprised primarily of correspondence with some sketches, photographs, and diary fragments.

At a Glance

Call No.:MS#0954
Bib ID:4079181 View CLIO record
Creator(s):Orlovsky, Peter, 1933-
Title:Peter Orlovsky Papers 1954-1971.
Physical description:.75 linear ft. (1 document box, 1 half-size document box)
Language(s): Material is in English.
Access: This collection is located on-site. This collection has no restrictions.  More information »



This collection is arranged in II series.

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Scope and Content

Correspondence of Orlovsky with Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Herbert Huncke, Jack Kerouac, Michael McClure, Philip Whalen, and others. Also, manuscripts of Allen Ginsberg, Lafcadio Orlovsky, and Peter Orlovsky, including his extensive diary notes for 1954-1955.

Series I: Correspondence, 1957-1971

This series contains correspondence sent to Orlovsky, as well as some of his outbound correspondence. His incoming correspondence includes letters from members of his family and from friends such as Gregory Corso, Jack Kerouac, and Michael McClure. The bulk of the incoming correspondence is from Allen Ginsberg, sent while he was traveling through Europe and South America. Some of the Ginsberg correspondence includes poems or drawings along with the letter. There are also letters that Peter sent to friends and family, in particular to Janine Pommey. The correspondence series represents the bulk of the collection.

Series II: Drawings, Writings, and Photographs, 1954-1958

This series contains sketches, dairy entries, and a small number of photographs created by Peter Orlovsky. The diary fragments are loose and many are undated.

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Using the Collection


Access Restrictions

This collection is located on-site.

This collection has no restrictions.

Restrictions on Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Peter Orlovsky Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Related Material-- at Columbia

Allen Ginsberg Papers at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Selected Related Material-- at Other Repositories

Peter Orlovsky: An Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

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About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries. Rare Book and Manuscript Library; machine readable finding aid created by Columbia University Libraries Digital Library Program Division

Processing Information

Cataloged 08/--/89 Christina Hilton Fenn

Papers processed 11/--/2009 Carrie Hintz

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion March 11, 2010 Finding aid written in English.
    2010-03-11 xml document instance created by Carrie Hintz

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Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.

Additional Creators

HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Orlovsky, Lafcadio.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
American literature--20th century.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
American poetry--20th century.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Beat generation.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Bohemianism--United States.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Burroughs, William S., 1914-1997.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Corso, Gregory.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Ginsberg, Allen, 1926-1997.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Huncke, Herbert.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Kerouac, Jack, 1922-1969.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
McClure, Michael.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Orlovsky, Peter, 1933-PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Whalen, Philip.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

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History / Biographical Note


Peter Orlovsky was born in 1933 to Oleg, a Russian immigrant who painted silk neckties and Katherine Orlovsky, an aspiring writer. He was born in Manhattan, on the Lower East Side, but grew up on Long Island in the town of Northport. The family was poor and both Oleg and Katherine were alcoholics and the Orlovsky's five children were often neglected and abused. The oldest son, Julius, went mad and had, eventually to be institutionalized, and both Peter and his younger brother Lafcadio struggled throughout their lives with substance abuse.

Peter, the second of the Orlovsky's five children left his mother's home at 17. He worked as an orderly in a mental hospital in Queens while taking night classes to complete the requirements for his high school diploma. In 1953 he was drafted into the Korean war where he served as a medic in a hospital in San Francisco.

In 1954, Orlovsky and moved in with painter Robert LaVigne acting both as the painter's model and his lover. Through LaVigne he met other writers and artists, most significantly Allen Ginsberg. Orlovsky and Ginsberg almost immediately became lovers and within months entered into a marriage that would last most of the remainder of their lives.

Ginsberg and Orlovsky lived together first in North Beach in California and later in New York City, but also traveled extensively throughout Europe and the Mediterranean as well as India and Pakistan. Though he lived and traveled all over the globe, Peter felt his responsibility to his brothers Julius and Lafcadio keenly, and his trips abroad were often abbreviated in order for him to care for one or both of them.

With Ginsberg's influence and encouragement, Orlovsky began writing poetry in 1957 while the two were living in Paris. He was first published in 1960 and continued to write throughout that decade, though this is also when his own drug use, particularly amphetamines, was at its worst.

In 1970 Orlovsky moved to the farm Allen Ginsberg purchased in Cherry Valley, New York to pursue organic farming and his writing. He joined the faculty of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute in 1974 to teach the course "Poetry for Dumb Students" and remained a core member of the faculty for several years. He was awarded a $10,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant in 1979.

He is the author of several books of poetry including Dear Allen: Ship will land Jan 23, 58, Clean Asshole Poems & Smiling Vegetable Songs: Poems 1957-1977, Lepers Cry, and the volume Straight Hearts' Delight--Love Poems and Selected Letters, by Orlovsky and Allen Ginsberg as well as publishing poems in a number of periodicals. He was also featured in Robert Frank's documentary film Me and My Brother (1969), which explores Julius Orlovsky's mental illness.

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