American culture and society in Ginsberg’s Poems

  1. Compare and contrast Ginsberg’s poems “A Supermarket in California” and “Sunflower Sutra, ” analyzing them in their historical context. How do they notice upon American civilization and society at the clip they were written?

Ginsberg was a fecund poet, his poesy ranged from being comparatively joyful to upon probe really nihilist and pessimistic in tone, the topics he wrote on were non missing in assortment.

Both ‘A Supermarket in California ‘ and ‘Sunflower Sutra ‘ were written during the 1950 ‘s, both verse forms concern themselves with exhaustively knocking the American civilization of the clip he lived in. Ginsberg uses the poetic figure of Walt Whitman as a agency to link the yesteryear to the present.

One of his most outstanding and good known verse forms was ‘A Supermarket in California ‘ ; this verse form entered thought into the impression of look intoing his reading of American civilization. Ginsberg portrays himself as a alone poet contrasting himself to Walt Whitman, a celebrated American poet who wrote on subjects of isolation and the thought of America ; “ What thoughts I have of you tonight, Whitman “ . From its beginning Ginsberg returns to picture himself as an foreigner puting the downtrodden tone of the verse form “ I walked down the side streets under the trees with a concern self-aware looking at the full Moon. ” Ginsberg returns to foster the cementation of his belief that he was entirely in his position, depicting the social ideal of 1950 ‘s America which differed greatly from his ain life, the typical atomic household in the supermarket ; “ Whole households shopping at dark! Aisles full of hubbies! Wifes in the alligator pear, babes in the tomatoes! “ Ginsberg associates members of society with goods in the shop ; partner offing married woman ‘s with alligator pears and babes with tomatoes, inherently connoting that consumer goods and the people who inadvertently consume them are merchandises of the great American machine. In ‘Sunflower Sutra ‘ Ginsberg takes a similar attack portraying a privation for society to be more accepting utilizing the damaged helianthus metaphorically.

On the other manus ‘California Supermarket ‘ concerns itself with the impression of consumerism and the look of isolation for the poet ‘Sunflower Sutra ‘ alternatively focal points on the image of a dead helianthus “ and the grey Sunflower poised against the sundown, crackly bleak and dusty with the carbon black and smog and fume of olden engines in its oculus “ The contrast in this verse form is focused on the contrast between a charred, broken and dead helianthus respective to a steam engine running in its prime. It can be argued that Ginsberg is stating that nature is going devalued versus mechanization and industry as he further writes “ Unholy battered old thing you were, my helianthus O my psyche, I loved you so! “

“ A perfect beauty of a helianthus! a perfect excellent lovely sunflower being! a sweet natural oculus to the new hip Moon, woke up alive and aroused graspingin the sundown shadow dawn aureate monthly zephyr! ” Ginsberg describes the damaged and defeated sunflower really positively holding described it antecedently in a entirely negative visible radiation, it might be Ginsberg ‘s hope that although society has damaged the helianthus and in consequence Ginsberg himself, it despite its harm and decay is still in a manner beautiful.

Ginsberg describes the passage of American society every bit good progressed, the inherent perceived value of consumerism going more outstanding by the twenty-four hours, the act of the everyman or common American purchasing into the American dream or as Ginsberg nihilistically explains his enlightened reading of it and how America merely serves the demands and wants of those who fit into its ideals, he does this by once more utilizing Walt Whitman “ I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, jabing among the meats in the icebox and eyeing the food market male child. “ . Ginsberg is contrasting society ‘s developing compulsion with material goods with the values of a water under the bridge epoch and yearns in a manner for people to go on to value the things they used to in the yesteryear, which Ginsberg grows nostalgic for “ Who killed the porc chops? What monetary value bananas? Are you my Angel? “ . This line besides portrays the consciousness Ginsberg has of the province of consumerism, where did these porc chops come from, what is the human cost of the bananas on the shelf, all inquiries that are even more relevant in the universe today.

Ginsberg says himself that he found the less extremely thought of civilization to be more appealing, it can be said Ginsberg ‘s verse forms particularly ‘supermarket in California ‘ can be prophetic about the result of the America he lived in “ Will we walk all dark through lone streets? The trees add shade to shadow, visible radiations out in the houses, we ‘ll both be lonely. Will we saunter dreaming of the lost America of love past bluish cars in private roads, place to our soundless bungalow? “ Ginsberg portrays the thought that despite the infrastructural and technological progresss of the universe persons are populating progressively stray lives, Ginsberg argues that technological advancement can be a load as it has dismantled the possibility of old traditions and life styles. Ginsberg ‘s pick to give himself to understanding America and the wider universe as best he could and opted to compose poesy to reflect that understanding. An apprehension that took the signifier of a sense of letdown in the America he existed in and a sense of hankering for what it could hold potentially been as we can see in “ Where are we traveling, Walt Whitman? The doors near in a hr. Which manner does your face fungus point tonight? “ Ginsberg is portraying his concern for the way of non merely his ain life but the way America as a state is taking, he uses Walt Whitman once more as a agency to portray his position on this issue and his contempt for the consumer civilization that was good established and turning at the clip he wrote these verse forms.

The verse form ‘Sunflower Sutra ‘ at first nowadayss itself as nil more than a portraiture of a adult male taking a minute to appreciate nature. However if we take the clip to read it decently we uncover the true significance Ginsberg wishes to portray. “I walked on the Bankss of the Sn can banana dock and sat down under the immense shadiness of a Southern Pacific engine to look at the sundown over the box house hills and cry.” These gap lines set the psychological tone of the verse form. The talker thinks he knows, but he is unsure. Uncertainty is permeant through this verse form. One could state that this uncertainness is an built-in portraiture of the state of affairs in post-war America at the clip. The talker seems at first to be mentioning to a local landholder on whose belongings the forests prevarication, but as the verse form finally suggests, the forests “belong” besides to darker, more impersonal forces of nature. The “sunflower” and “thelocomotive” create a nature versus society apposition that highlights the speaker’s isolation. This duality besides establishes one of the poem’s major subjects: choosing between the looming damaged beauty of the helianthus or the esthesia and duty of society. This apposition ties in with a more outstanding subject of Ginsberg’s ; that being a sense of sorrow or yearning for something that has passed. “ and the grey Sunflower poised against the sundown, crackly bleak and dusty with the carbon black and smog and fume of olden engines in its oculus ” a superficial reading of this line might propose that Ginsberg is speaking about the doggedness of nature but cognizing his position it is more likely that he is depicting something preoccupying his mind, it may be the flower represents the decaying of his hope and enthusiasm ; it is likely he has something negative weighing down his ideas similar to the negative ideas he had in “California Supermarket” .

In ‘Sunflower Sutra ‘ the line “ the backbones and visceras of the crying coughing auto, the empty lonely tin tins with their rusty linguas alack… ” Ginsberg writes that the auto, an built-in portion of the new America is inherently devaluing nature while the fable of “ empty lonely Sn tins ” implies that this life of consumerism and philistinism is finally bootless and in itself an empty one.

In both poems we are led to contemplate on the poignance of Ginsberg ‘s construct of America, of the solitariness he finds himself enduring and his perceptual experience of the civilization of the state. Ginsberg asks us have you as the reader decided to walk along the commonly strewn way or were you make bolding and decided to track less traveled district in hunt of something uncommon. It can be said that Ginsberg ‘s verse form is stating us to inquire ourselves to look back and perceive picks we ‘ve made. Ginsberg besides asks what our and inherently society ‘s picks in the hereafter might be ; taking the more traversed route or the less traveled route which as Ginsberg describes it “ quote ” . The reader is invited to believe about the deductions of the verse form ; was there a more appropriate way for America to go down or a more dignified and expansive end to work towards.

‘Sunflower Sonata ‘ gravitates to the dark impression of huming with a deep sense of hankering for something or person that is lost to us and can non be reclaimed or contacted once more as the line “ Ah, dear father, old man, lonely old courage-teacher, what America did you have when Charon quit punting his ferry and you got out on a smoke bank and stood watching the boat disappear on the black Waterss of Lethe? “ in Sunflower Sonata ‘ portrays this thought to us Ginsberg portraying the construct that the American dream was a constructed ideal that in his and other ‘s eyes that ideal did n’t amount to anything worthwhile.The concluding feeling of the verse form implies that something has been lost that can non of all time be reclaimed.


Ginsberg, Allen. Howl and Other Poems: Pocket Poets Number 4 City Lights Books, New York. Print.1956

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