About Allen Cohen—by Ann Cohen
Allen Cohen was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1940. His contributions to this world are immense.
Allen moved to San Francisco in search of the remnants of the Beat Generation. He first lived in North Beach and then moved to the Haight Ashbury, at the time a working class neighborhood in the west side of San Francisco. Soon, the Haight Ashbury became a flourishing bohemia and Allen was one of the key personalities.
Allen Cohen had a dream that there was a newspaper being read all over the world with rainbows. Pursuing his commitment to spread poetic messages of love and hope among all mankind, the small-stature poet founded and edited the famed San Francisco Oracle, the Haight-Ashbury’s counterculture newspaper that was one of the major vehicles in forming the 60’s through out the world.
The San Francisco Oracle was the leading voice in the nationwide underground press movement. Allen also helped originate the community rituals of the Love Pageant Rally and then the Human Be-In, 1968. Allen and his friends started a commune in Northern California to explore a non-material self-sustaining and creative community. Out of necessity, he became a mid-husband and in 1970 wrote and published Childbirth is Ecstasy, the first book on natural child birth in a community environment (with photographs by Steven Walzer). He returned to San Francisco in 1975.
Allen Cohen is an important poet. He had a love for humanity and was fully committed to promoting peace throughout the world. His words and actions radiate with messages that transcend the ages, remaining as truthful to one generation as the next. He published 3 books of poetry, Childbirth Is Ecstasy, Reagan Poems and The Book Of Hats. He performed his poetry at music concerts, colleges, museums and coffeehouses. In 1991 Allen worked with Regent Press in Oakland, Ca, to publish a commemorative Facsimile Edition of the complete San Francisco Oracle in order to preserve it for posterity. Allen presented his multi-image slide show The Rise and Fall of the Haight-Ashbury in the 60’s in theaters and universities world wide. In 1995 he authored a CD ROM, The Haight Ashbury in the 60’s with the Grateful Dead.
The last four years before Allen’s death he worked on a political book that took a shot at reconstructing American politics. In 2001 Allen consulted with the San Diego Museum of Art on High Societies and sixties rock poster show, and produce a symposium on the Sixties for the show. In 2001 he edited Peace News, an emergency newspaper exploring alternatives to war. In 2002 he edited (with Clive Matson) An Eye For An Eye Makes The Whole World Blind: Poets on 9/11 which won the 2003 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award for outstanding writing.
After Allen’s death his wife Ann Cohen with friends published Like a Radiant White Dove. Allen Cohen passed away in his Walnut Creek home with his family by his side April 29 2004. This world was a much better place with Allen being part of our world community.
Allen Cohen's words, actions carry deep messages of love for humanity
By Lance Armstrong
With a constant commitment toward achieving peace through a love for humanity, Allen Cohen is so important, as his words and actions radiate with messages that transcend the ages, remaining as truthful to one generation as the next. Dedicated to his constant commitment of spreading his poetic messages of love and hope among all mankind, the small-statured poet who founded and edited the famed Haight-Ashbury counterculture newspaper, the San Francisco Oracle, delivered many memorable words and actions with visions of peace and positive views on the potential of humanity.
Despite his link to an era long gone, Cohen's words are everlasting, as his longtime dedication to bettering humanity continues to ring loud and clear. Certainly every generation has its share of difficulties, which causes the open-minded to seek alternative views and to develop new ways of thinking. And one of the most widely recognized generations, which was not afraid to express its views, was that of the 1960s hippie counterculture generation. Led by a select group of poets, writers, musicians and other free thinkers, the sentiment of this generation, which would spread to other parts of the country and world, derived from the epicenter of hippiedom that was San Francisco.
Among these leaders was Cohen, who emerged from the cultivation of the Beat Generation - the non-conformist, underground collaboration of individuals, who were the predecessors to the hippies. It was Cohen, through his charm, intellect and determination, who helped lead the way for a generation that longed for a change through the struggles of the times. With his trademark personality, Cohen epitomized the true hippie sentiment through his continuous strive to promote peace among humanity. Although many believe that the “hippie dream” died with the Sixties, Cohen strongly disagreed. “The dream is alive and well!” exclaimed Cohen in 2004. For Cohen, this dream was timeless, thus having an everlasting existence that was as true in the 21st century as it was during its heyday in the Sixties. And it is because of Cohen's never-wavering determination and energy, which he spread through his many poetic words, that his life continues to be a lesson to us all - a lesson that evolved during his years on the East Coast to his most profound years on the West Coast.
Cohen, who like many youth living in New York in the 1960s, was fascinated with the beat poets and novelists, who had left New York City and found residences in the North Beach district of San Francisco. Inspired by Jack Kerouac's classic beat generation novel, “On the Road,” Cohen, after graduating from Brooklyn College in 1962, set out on his own Kerouac-like, cross-country adventure, arriving in California at the age of 23. “I arrived in North Beach in 1963,” Cohen said. “I went there searching for the Beat poets, because I wanted to learn about them directly from the source.” After satisfying many of his early curiosities about the Beats by rubbing shoulders with such renown figures as Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Cohen eventually obtained work at the Psychedelic Shop - the first “head shop” on San Francisco's now-legendary Haight Street. While working at the Psychedelic Shop, Cohen had a dream about a multicolored newspaper, which circulated throughout the world. “I had this telescoping vision of a newspaper with rainbows on it,” Cohen said. “In this dream, I was flying around the world to places like France, Russia, China and New York and everywhere I went, I saw people reading this rainbow newspaper.” Being the type of individual, who was more of a doer than a dreamer, Cohen made sure that his dream came true through his founding of the San Francisco Oracle in 1967.
As Haight-Ashbury evolved into the capital of the countercultural revolution and a hub for musicians, artists, poets and free thinkers, the Oracle quickly became its bullhorn, reporting on such events as the Human-Be-In, the Love Book bust at the Psychedelic Shop, Ken Kesey's “Acid Test” Graduation, and the March on the Pentagon. “The Oracle was sort of a guide for young people who wanted to step outside the realms of the type of conventional thinking that was so prevalent in their parents' and other earlier generations,” Cohen said. “It provided them with a different avenue through beautiful artwork and words, which rang with truth and transcendence. Each issue served like a map of consciousness for those who were seeking a different, more exciting and better way of life.”
Although the Haight-Ashbury scene was both short and long-lived, depending upon one's view, the era left a sort of tie dyed tattoo upon those it had touched. Cohen continued to carry the torch of the era, as he constantly contributed his views through his writings and speeches. Among his most noted works are: “Childbirth Is Ecstasy,” “Reagan Poems” and “Book of Hats.” With his passion for spreading positive messages through his published works and speeches, Cohen continuously focused on his never-wavering dream of making the world a better place to live. “Our dream of peace, love and community never died,” Cohen said. “We, as human beings, yearn for the dream of the Sixties and despite many disappointments and failures, our dream, which is a very basic, yet remarkably strong dream, will live on forever.” And as a testament to these words, Cohen's vision is being realized through this site, which pays tribute to his life and the everlasting dream, which he contributed so greatly toward making a reality.
Lance Armstrong is a veteran writer on the subjects of music and California history. In 2003, he took a special interest in researching the life of Allen Cohen, which included conducting the final media interview with Cohen prior to his passing. A graduate of California State University, Sacramento with degrees in journalism and music, Armstrong is the author of the book “Echoes of Yesterday: An Inside View of Historic Sites of Elk Grove, California” (Regent Press, 2006, 374 pp., ISBN 13: 978-1-58790-126-3 h/b, ISBN 13: 978-1-58790-125-6 p/b), and many newspaper and magazine articles on a variety of topics.