5 March 2013
Brief Literary Analysis Lost America: An analysis of “A Supermarket in California”
Allen Ginsberg; philosopher, activist, poet, a man highly revered as a groundbreaking figure between the 1950’s Beat Poetry Generation and the counter-cultural revolution of the 1960’s (poetryarchive.org). Ginsberg’s first book “Howl and Other Poems,” was published in 1955, his work was involved in an illustrious obscenity trial because of the use of homosexuality in his work and its explicit content (poetryarchive.org). This was a pivotal case for those defending free speech; the judgment was overturned due to the book’s “redeeming social importance,” thus setting the tone for his contentious career (poetry archive.org). Ginsberg’s poem “A Supermarket in California” was one of the “other poems” in this publication, seemingly a tribute to Ginsberg’s poetic hero and influence, Walt Whitman. This piece was an experiment of style and theme that would later dominate his career (Pagnattaro 1). It seems that the use of Whitman in this poem is a device, which the author used to contrast Walt’s idealism with his own cynical version of reality. Ginsberg was expressing his disdain with the hypocrisy of modern American society’s “progress” and the bastardization of nature that happens as a symptom of mass consumerism.
The reasons why Ginsberg chose Walt Whitman to be his companion in “A Supermarket in California” is because his character adds polarity to the message because of his auspiciousness. Whitman’s company also supports Ginsberg’s thesis because they shared many similar opinions. Walt Whitman, considered America’s first original poet in the nineteenth century, experimented with meter and rhythm and forgo the structured line and stanza (Holmes 1). Whitman was an eccentric, controversial for his time, and just like Ginsberg, Whitman was a homosexual (Moore 1). Whitman wrote about nature, and encroachment of
Cited: Ginsberg, Allen. “Howl and other Poems.” San Francisco: City Lights Bookstore, 1956. Print. Holmes, James. “Walt Whitman had America right-a century ago.” Online Athens. Onlineathens.com. Web. 3 March 2013. Montiero, George. “Peaches and Penumbras: Ginsberg’s ‘Supermarket in California’.” Notes on Contemporary Literature 36.2 (2006). Literature Resource Center. Web. 26 Feb. 2013. Moore, Julie. “Allen Ginsberg’s a Supermarket in California and Condemnation of American Consumerism.” Yahoo Voices (2007). Yahoo. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. Pagnattaro, Marisa Anna. “Critical Essay on ‘A Supermarket in California’.” Poetry for Students. Ed. Mary Ruby. Vol. 5. Detroit: Gale Group, 1999. Literature Resource Center. Web. 26 Feb. 2013. Unknown. “A Supermarket in California.” Poetry Archive: About the Poet. Poetryarchive.org. Web. 21 Feb. 2013. Unknown. “Biography of Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997).” Grade Saver. Gradesaver.com/Authors. Web. 26 Feb. 2013.