What are five poetic devices used in Allen Ginsberg's poem "America," and what are their locations in the poem?

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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...

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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.

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Ginsberg's "America" is a comic poem raising questions about American society in the 1950s. It is worth listening to Ginsberg read it to hear the audience's laughter. This helps gauge how it was received in the 1950s.

The poem is filled with allusions. Allusions are references to other works of literature or to people and events outside the poem itself. This can be confusing to us today, as many of the allusions are no longer completely familiar. We hear, for example, of Burroughs, Wobblies, Time Magazine, Spanish Loyalists, and Sacco and Vanzetti. By invoking these names, Ginsberg creates an "in-the-know" feeling and a bond with his audience. If, at the time it was written, you could pick up the ideology that all these allusions act as a shorthand for, you would receive the warm feeling of being in Ginsberg's hip, left-wing "club."

Ginsberg also makes a more oblique, literary allusion to Walt Whitman when he says "I am America."

Ginsberg uses personification, which treats or addresses an animal or object as if it is a person. He personifies American when he writes: "America, I am addressing you."

Ginsberg employs deadpan comedy. This says something that is meant to be funny with a straight face. Ginsberg does this in lines such as "Everybody's serious but me" and "America this is quite serious."

Ginsberg also mocks the other side of the political divide with parodic language by mimicking the ungrammatical cadences he imagines used by the right-wingers who fear communists. He makes repetitive, simplistic statements and uses mindless cliches, such as "eat us alive":

America its them bad Russians.
Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. And them Russians.
The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia’s power mad. She wants to take our cars from out our garages.
Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Reader’s Digest.

Ginsberg also uses similes:

I will continue like Henry Ford my strophes are as individual as his automobiles more so they’re all different sexes.

A simile is a comparison using like or as. Ginsberg is being comic when he says his strophes as are individual as Ford's autos, as Ford's cars were known for their assembly-line sameness.

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