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Peter Orlovsky (born July 8, 1933 on the Lower East Sidemarker, New York City) is an American poet best known for his lifelong relationship with Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg.


Orlovsky was born to Russian parents named Oleg and Katharina Orlovsky in New York City. Orlovsky was raised in poverty and was forced to drop out of high school in his senior year so he could support his impoverished family. After many odd jobs, he began working as an orderly at Creedmore State Mental Hospital in New York.

Orlovsky was drafted into the Army for the Korean War in 1953 when he was 19 years old. 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 Franciscomarker 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.

In 1974, Orlovsky joined the faculty of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institutemarker 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.


  • 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 (German translation) (1980)
His work has also appeared in New American Poetry: 1945-1960 (1960), The Beatitude Anthology (1965), as well as the literary magazines Yugen and Outsider. Orlovsky has appeared in two films, Andy Warhol's Couch (1965) and photographer Robert Frank's Me and My Brother (1969), a film documenting his brother's (Julius Orlovsky) mental illness.


  1. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center [1]
  • Charters, Ann (ed.). The Portable Beat Reader. Penguin Books. New York. 1992. ISBN 0-670-83885-3 (hc); ISBN 0-14-015102-8 (pbk)

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