Were any similarity or differences between "A Noises Patient Spider" by Whitman and "A Supermarket in California" by Ginsberg?

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lfawley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ginsberg admired Whitman, having discovered the poet when he was still a teen, Both writers shared a sense of isolation for their sexuality and both spoke of what they saw around them in their poems. Both were "activists" (although Ginsberg is more remembered for his activism because of his ties to the 1960s and beyond). That said, and offering a small glimpse into the background of the writers, both were also watchers, observers of humanity, and here is where I see the clearest similarities between the two poems. Ginsberg himself is the watcher in "Supermarket in California" as he drifts down the aisles of American consumerism catching glimpses of Whitman and Lorca. He is isolated from humanity in the midst of what we know to be a sea of humanity (picture a crowded grocery store - many people, but no one connects to each other - which makes this poem in some ways more similar to Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry". Ginsberg sees in Whitman the same isolation that he sees in himself:

Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in
an hour. Which way does your beard point tonight?
(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the
supermarket and feel absurd.)
Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The
trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we'll both be

Whitman's spider is similarly a representation of isolation:

And you O my Soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them

Both are isolated, speaking of isolation, watching the world around them and seeing ways to connect but also seeing that humanity fails at many times to make those connections.