Allen Ginsberg had no intention of taking the stage alone at San Francisco's Six Gallery on Oct. 7, 1955, but was left to represent the nascent Beat Generation when novelists Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs declined the invitation. Ginsberg's incantatory reading of his epic poem "Howl" was swiftly recognized as a milestone in the development of America's first native literary movement. Published in 1956, the poem's nonjudgmental allusions to drug use and homosexuality sparked a 1957 obscenity trial, while its critical perspective on postwar conformity earned it a spot in the Beat trinity alongside Kerouac's 1957 bestseller <i>On the Road</i> and Burroughs' hallucinatory 1959 novel <i>Naked Lunch</i>. As famous for his politics and lifestyle as for his verse, Ginsberg was a pioneer champion of gay rights and the legalization of marijuana, while in Communist countries he stumped for free speech. An intimate of Bob Dylan and the Beatles, Ginsberg drew sell-out crowds to his readings while becoming the poet laureate of the marginalized and alienated. Although he appeared in a number of motion pictures, including Robert Frank's short "Pull My Daisy" (1959) and Dylan's three-hour "Renaldo and Clara" (1978), Ginsberg's true medium remained poetry, to which he brought the mesmeric qualities of rabbi, yogi and revival tent preacher. At the time of his death in 1997, Ginsberg was recognized as an important link between the Beats, the Hippies, punk rock and grunge, and was eulogized as possibly the greatest American poet of the second half of the 20th Century.