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The poem is an apostrophe, an address to someone not present: Walt Whitman. Ginsberg is reading Whitman's poetry and trying to write his own. He is "shopping for images," but those he sees are all commercial and trite. He tries to summon Whitman, his muse, the way Dante summoned Virgil to be his guide in his odyssey, but Ginsberg feels absurd:
(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the supermarket and feel absurd.)
In his famous poems ("I Hear America Singing"), Whitman walked the docks of Long Island and loved to listen to workers: the "mechanics," the "masons," and "mothers." Outdoors, free, innocent, young America and Whitman were full of boundless idealism and energy.
Here, Ginsberg says America has changed since Whitman wrote:
Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?
No more are people outside singing and working: they are snug in their homes, "silent," their cars parked in driveways. Even when the poets go outside, it is quiet and lonely:
Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we'll both be lonely.
These Americans are all inside, in their homes or the supermarket. They surround themselves with things: cars, rows and rows of cans, things to buy. These Americans are spoiled materialists: in fact, they have become things to buy themselves:
Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!
Ginsberg finds it difficult to summon the creative energy to use them as poetic subjects. Will he too shop for images?
Allen Ginsberg's "A Supermarket in California" evokes Walt Whitman by name and evokes his poetry in the long, un-rhymed lines and in the catalogs of commonplace objects of American life. But Ginsberg’s America is not Whitman’s, for Ginsberg makes the point that Whitman too was lonely while he lived and finally encountered the loneliness of death. The allusion to the Spanish poet García Lorca is to his poem on Walt Whitman and also calls to mind yet another homosexual poet whose love was un-reciprocated. As one sees it, the "self-conscious" poet, his head aching (line 1), draws inspiration from Whitman, who lived in an earlier and more innocent age, an age when a man could unselfconsciously celebrate male beauty and comradeliness.
But that age is "the lost America of love" (11), and in any case the Whitman who celebrates it and who is the poet’s "courage-teacher" (13) was himself "lonely" (again 13) and, like all mortals, at last lost all. By the way, in the first sentence, Ginsberg seems to confuse Lethe (the river of forgetfulness) with Styx (the river across which Charon poled his ferry).
I DID AN RESEARCH PAPER IN MY ENGLISH COMPOSITION CLASS BUT I DIDNT FIND ANY ACADEMIC OR GOOD ARTICLES TO USE IT AS A SOURCE AND I FOUND THIS WEBSITE BUT IT DOESNT HAVE THAT MUCH INFORMATION ON THE ANALYSIS OF THE POEM.i DID UNDERSTAND THE INTERPRATATION OF THE POEM.tHE AUTHOR USES WHITMAN AS AN IMAGINARY SYMBOL IN HIS LIFE WICH REPRESENTS A ROLE MODEL AND A GAY LIBERATION TO THE MODERN CULTURE IN AMERICA WHERE PEOPLE FORGETS ABOUT THE BEAUTY IN NATURE WHEN EVERYBODY FORGETS ABOUT FRIENSHIP AND LOVE.
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