John Giorno was born on December 4, 1936, in New York City. He received a BA from Columbia University in 1958.
A poet, visual artist, and performance artist interested in Pop Art, Giorno met Andy Warhol in 1962. He became a collaborator and lover, and is featured in Warhol's 1963 film Sleep. In 1964, Giorno produced a found poetry anthology called The American Book of the Dead and began experimenting with poetry and sound environments performed at the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church.
In 1967, he launched Dial-a-Poem, inviting individuals to call a specific phone number to hear poets including John Ashbery, Joe Brainard, John Cage, Allen Ginsberg, Frank O’Hara, and Anne Waldman read their poems. (The number, 1-641-793-8122, is still active, and the archive can be found here.) Dial-a-Poem, which has been included in exhibits at the Museum of Modern Art, was part of Giorno Poetry Systems (GPS), a nonprofit organization that supported the poet’s experimentation with methods to bring poetry into the public sphere.
In the 1980s, Giorno became involved in AIDS activism, and GPS contributed now iconic broadsides to efforts to raise money to support those living with the disease, including one with lines that read: “TREAT A COMPLETE STRANGER / AS A LOVER, HUG THEM.”
Later in life, Giorno focused on his text-based visual art. In 2015, a retrospective of his work organized by his husband, the Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone, was exhibited at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris and in New York City. He died on October 11, 2019.