A Supermarket in California - Essay Example

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A Supermarket in California Today Allen Ginsberg is regarded as one of the 20th century’s seminal Beat poets. In addition to constructing poetry, Ginsberg’s would prominently influence Beat writers such as Jack Kerouac and Diana DiPrima. While Whitman’s work spans a wide array of texts, undoubtedly his most celebrated is the 1956 collection of poetry Howl and Other Poems…
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A Supermarket in California
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Download file to see previous pages This essay examines Ginsberg’s ‘A Supermarket in California’ in terms of figurative language and poetic technique. One of the most overarching considerations is that the poem is partially meant to be a tribute to Walt Whitman and was released on the centennial of Whitman’s ‘Leaves of Grass.’ This is clearly reflected in the poem as Ginsberg makes frequent reference to Walt Whitman within the poem’s very narrative structure. Indeed, Ginsberg wistfully addresses Whitman in a number of ways. Ginsberg states, “What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked down the side streets under the trees with a headache” (Ginsberg, 1-2). The poem also contains long-lines that are slightly unique. Partly these long-lines can be attributed to a further tribute to Whitman’s own tendency towards incorporating this form in his poems. Notably, poet Garcia-Lorca is also referenced in this work. In terms of poetic form the poem is highly unique in that it does not conform to traditional types of stanza or rhyme scheme. What can be termed the first stanza extends for twelve lines; three more stanzas of varying line length follow this stanza. There is no discernable rhyme scheme in the poem, with Ginsberg refraining from even implementing a rhyming couplet. Additionally, these elements that eschew traditional poetic form are clearly in-line with the Beat Movement’s embrace of alternative modes of expression. Additionally, the poem’s narrative -- as embracing American counter-cultural elements -- is perhaps best articulated by an irregular form. The narrative as embracing counter-cultural elements is indeed a major consideration within this work. Ginsberg writes, “I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys” (Ginsberg, 11-12). Here there is the obvious allusion to homosexuality through the eyeing of grocery boys. While poetic form constitutes a major element within this specific work, the narrative has perhaps gained the most critical attention. As noted the work is partly a tribute to Walt Whitman. Further analysis reveals a number of notable elements. During Whitman’s there is the recognition of American society as more in direct contact with natural elements. The setting of the poem’s narrative within the supermarket then is perhaps a means of ironically commenting on the nature of industrialized world as far removed from the direct process of hunting and growing their own subsistence. This interpretation is heightened by Ginsberg’s subtly comedic line, “I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel?” (Ginsberg, 13-14). Here one recognizes the comedic potential of placing Whitman in a modern day supermarket. While the poem embraces irregular poetic form and counter-cultural elements, there is also the recognition that Ginsberg expertly interweaves a number of profound themes. One such consideration is the meditation on the present day cultural milieu. Ginsberg writes, “Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?” (Ginsberg, 26-27). Just as Whitman articulated a profound 19th century vision of America, Ginsberg here is working to capture the essence of time. In addition to ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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