The speaker in this poem addresses America, the country, directly, as though it could hear and respond. This is a poetic technique called apostrophe , which refers to the practice of addressing someone or something as though it could hear and respond to the speaker in a poem. In...
The speaker in this poem addresses America, the country, directly, as though it could hear and respond. This is a poetic technique called apostrophe, which refers to the practice of addressing someone or something as though it could hear and respond to the speaker in a poem. In a sense, then, this technique personifies the object being addressed—America in this case—by implying that the country can understand the speaker.
Ginsberg further personifies America by insisting that it makes "insane demands" that sicken him (line 14) or that it is "sinister" (20), that it can make a "practical joke" (21), or that it can "push" him to do or not do something (24). To personify something is to give it human qualities that it cannot literally possess, because it is not a human being. The speaker, in fact, seems to argue with America (though America never responds).
He personifies other things as well, like Time Magazine, saying that "its cover stares at [him]" every time he passes the corner store (40). He also personifies the continent of Asia, saying that it "rises against" him, and he compares himself to a country—America—via metaphor when he says that he’d "better consider [his] national resources."
He uses a number of allusions—references to other people, events, texts, and so on—with which he expects his reader to be familiar: "Tom Mooney," a possibly wrongfully convicted political activist; "Spanish Loyalists," a group maligned for its support of communism during the civil war in Spain; "Sacco & Vanzetti," two Italian-American anarchists who were executed for a murder they probably did not commit (but who were victims of anti-Italian prejudice); "the Scottsboro boys," nine black teens who were falsely accused of raping two white women; and so forth. These allusions serve to display how corrupt America and American justice can be.
In the final line, the speaker says that he is now "putting [his] queer shoulder to the wheel." This is an idiom that means to work hard toward a goal. He evidently intends to better America by grappling with her corruptions.