Shakespeare and Company

On Allen Ginsberg: His life, his work and his archives, with Pat Thomas and Peter Hale

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Episode notes

We were joined by countercultural historian Pat Thomas, and Peter Hale, manager of the Ginsberg estate, and discover their new collaboration Material Wealth Mining the Personal Archive of Allen Ginsberg.


A prolific poet, raconteur, activist, and thinker, Allen Ginsberg was also a prolific collector, meticulously saving letters, postcards, draft notes and manuscripts, photographs and snapshots, appearance bills and rally broadsheets, not only featuring him personally, but also his fellow poets, singers, lovers, writers, journey companions, friends, and agitators. Gathered here publicly for the first time is his personal archive of events and experiences documenting his life as a young man, breakaway poet, expansive spirit, curious intellectual traveler, and relentless enthusiast of the provocative and the profane.

There are hundreds of thousands of items carefully stored and archived at Stanford University’s Allen Ginsberg collection. Counterculture historian Pat Thomas, with the full cooperation of the Allen Ginsberg Estate's Peter Hale, has compiled and annotated a remarkable volume of material, unearthing in the process one astounding find after another. The result is a tome of previously unpublished historical paperwork and vintage graphics and photographs and ephemera that promises an unprecedented look inside one of the most prolific poets and agitators of cultural mores of the 20th century.


Pat Thomas is a counterculture historian and archival music producer (and liner-note writer) whose expertise and interests have helped him author such books as Listen, Whitey! The Sights & Sounds of Black Power 1965–1975 and Did It! Jerry Rubin: An American Revolutionary. He has co-curated Invitation to Openness: The Jazz & Soul Photography of Les McCann 1960-1980, co-edited My Week Beats Your Year: Encounters with Lou Reed, an anthology of interviews about the iconic musician, and contributed to The (Original) Adventures of Ford Fairlane: The Long Lost Rock n’ Roll Detective and Kerouac on Record: A Literary Soundtrack. Thomas was a consultant on the PBS documentary The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution and compiled the 3-CD box set The Last Word on First Blues for the Allen Ginsberg Estate (1970s recordings of Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, and Arthur Russell), and the 2-CD set Songs of Innocence and Experience of Ginsberg’s 1969 recordings (with Don Cherry and Elvin Jones) putting William Blake poems to music with vocals by Allen.

Peter Hale grew up in Italy, Germany, and then Boulder, CO where he earned a BA in Classics, Greek & Latin, from the University of Colorado, all the while attending classes in music, poetry and meditation at Naropa University. He became part of the staff at Allen Ginsberg’s office in 1992, and in 1997 helped craft his posthumous estate, which he currently manages. He studied Guitar with Dave Van Ronk & Danny Kalb, and Piano with Peter Barbieri. He currently produces his own music, and djs around NYC. He lives in Ridgewood, Queens.

Adam Biles is Literary Director at Shakespeare and Company. His latest novel, Beasts of England, a sequel of sorts to Animal Farm, is available now. Buy a signed copy here:

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