Does the image of the respected poet “poking/ among the meats” in "A Supermarket in California" strengthen the poem’s impact or undercut any serious “message” the poem might have?

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I would argue the incongruent image of the respected poet “poking/ among the meats” in the supermarket strengthens the poem’s impact.

In the poem, Allen Ginsburg addresses two poets (Federico Garcia Lorca and Walt Whitman) as he peruses the fruits and vegetables in the supermarket. Walt Whitman is said to be "poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys." Meanwhile, Ginsburg wonders what Garcia Lorca is doing "down by the watermelons." Although neither Whitman nor Lorca are present, Ginsburg brings them into his supermarket experience because he's as lonely as he imagines his admired poets were when they were alive.

LikeGinsburg, Garcia Lorca and Whitman were homosexuals. In the poem, Ginsburg muses about whole families (husbands in the aisles, "wives in the avocados," and "babies in the tomatoes") in the supermarket, all enjoying their shopping experience. Meanwhile, Ginsburg is alone and feels himself so detached from the scene that he has to imagine Whitman walking with him down corridors, "tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen delicacy, and never passing the cashier," in order to refrain from feeling out of place.

Ginsburg basically uses the incongruent image of the poets to highlight his loneliness and detachment from society. He dreams of the "lost America of love" as he walks through the supermarket. At the end of the poem, he imagines asking Whitman about the kind of America he knew when he was alive. In Greek mythology, anyone who drank from the waters of Lethe would completely forget how they lived during their mortal lives. The learned were advised to seek the river of memory, Mnemosyne, instead.

Yet, in the poem, Ginsburg suggests that Whitman may have needed to drink from the waters of Lethe to forget his mortal life in the America he knew. Although the images of the poets seem incongruent, Ginsburg is raising some pretty serious questions here. He's asking his readers to consider the image of the America he knows and whether materialism ("automobiles in driveways") is conducive to happiness. He's also wondering what his place in America is, just as he imagines both Whitman and Lorca must have wondered about their own worlds when they were alive. His last words in the poem lead us to question whether a poet like him should drink of the waters of Lethe in order to survive in the America he's living in.

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