Where Will You Find Inspiration Tonight?
Strong imagery is a key component to a good poem. A poem without imagery leaves the reader unable to relate to the work, and it’s hard to enjoy a poem that one can’t relate to. “A Supermarket in California” by Allen Ginsberg is a great example of a poem with a strong sense of imagery. Ginsberg has a way of digging into the senses and making the reader experience the poem, rather than just read it. Interpreting this poem through a formalist lens answers any questions left about the text.
The poem begins with “What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon.” Walt Whitman “was a journalist, wartime nurse, and poet whose poetry captured the pathos and spirituality of the ordinary soldier in the Civil War and reinforced the image of President Lincoln as a Christ like character.” (List, go.galegroup.com) With that in mind, approach this introduction with a formalist view. The image here is a man walking down a back road at night with a confused look upon his face. It’s obvious that this man is searching for something, but that hasn’t been revealed yet. The introduction continues with, “In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!” Here is where he states what he’s searching for: images. He’s a writer who has run out of inspiration. He’s become so exasperated that he’s started wandering down sidestreets with a headache, and eventually, he finds himself in a “neon fruit” supermarket. He specifies “neon fruit” to give you an image of bright inspiration. The introduction concludes with “What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!- and you, Garcia Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?” Rather than Ginsberg suggesting that there are literal...
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