Allen Ginsberg Discussion Topics

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

When Allen Ginsberg asserted in “Howl” that he would be describing the “best minds of a generation,” he was establishing a set of criteria for individual experience that challenged some familiar and generally accepted standards for personal behavior. What are some of the more prominent values that his work supports? What are some of the personal preferences that drew particularly virulent criticism from some cultural commentators?

One of the most appealing aspects of Ginsberg’s poetry is his comic capacity. He often regards himself as a figure of fun, even in serious statements. Locate and identify examples of his comic sense, and consider how they operate in the creation of an aesthetic sensibility.

In “A Supermarket in California,” Ginsberg depicts two poets dreaming of “the lost America of love.” What are some of the most significant attributes of this “nation” that Ginsberg mentions and elucidates in his poetry?

Ginsberg explained that “Wales Visitation” was a poem written to convey the essence of the psychedelic experience. How does Ginsberg use images to express the dimensions of his psychological mood? How does this correspond to the kind of visionary mental condition that he admires in poets such as William Blake?

One of the most important factors in Ginsberg’s development as a poet was his relationship with his parents. How does he describe and attempt to come to a resolution of tension with his mother’s life in “Kaddish” and other poems?

Among other terms, Ginsberg described his religious inclinations as a “Buddhist Jew.” What are some of the religious precepts and principles which can be drawn from his poems?

As a way to explain one of his poetic techniques, Ginsberg spoke of the linkage of disparate objects, as in “Hydrogen Jukebox” from Howl, and Other Poems. What other prominent examples of this method can be found in his poetry, and how well do they work in generating the moods of the poem?