(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Recalling the catalogue of abundance that begins “A Supermarket in California,” “Fun House Antique Store” conveys a similar feeling of excitement at the marvels available to an American citizen among the fundamental things of the American nation. In this poem, it is the apparently mundane objects of life along the road that Ginsberg, in the tradition of Walt Whitman and Jack Kerouac, sees with delight as he has been “motoring through States” on the way to an event at the nation’s capital. No longer the “isolato” (as Whitman described himself) of the time in 1955 when he was about to publish “Howl” and enter the consciousness of his country, Ginsberg is now prominent enough to be traveling “through Maryland to see our lawyer in D.C.,” but he has retained his ability to recognize the manifestations of the warmly human amid a bleak and forbidding environment, something he did regularly in poems such as “Bayonne Entering NYC.”

Applying his sharp eye for the telling detail, Ginsberg evokes the feeling of an old dwelling made inviting by the accumulation of objects and devices that represent the substance of countless lives. Admiring the “old-fashioned house,” Ginsberg leads the reader on a tour, beginning with an entry past “Flower’d wallpaper, polished banisters/ lampshades dusted, candelabra burnished” that sets the location within the flow of time’s passage. Then, in a profusion of images that extend and deepen the mood of the house, he presents item after item as they appear: “washbowls beside the French doors/ embroidered doilies & artificial flowers/ ivory & light brown on mahogany/ side tables, a brass bowl for cards,/ kitchen with polished stove cold ready/ at Summer’s end to light up with split/ wood & kindling in buckets beside/ the empty fireplace, tongs & screen/ in neat order.”

The second floor is presented with similar attention to detail, until the poet is so overcome with the pleasure of contemplation that he declares, “I wished to make a speech,” and while his praise is not readily acknowledged (“attendants conferred/ minds elsewhere”), one person “applauded our appreciation,” perhaps a figure for the often limited but discerning audience that the poet finds and for which he is grateful even now, somewhat famous, with his “party on its way to the postmodern Capital.”


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

“Allen Ginsberg.” In The Beats: A Literary Reference, edited by Matt Theado. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2004.

Hyde, Lewis, ed. On the Poetry of Allen Ginsberg. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1984.

Kashner, Sam. When I Was Cool: My Life at the Jack Kerouac School. New York: HarperCollins, 2004.

McDarrah, Fred W. A Beat Generation Album. New York: Thunder’s Mouth, 2003.

Miles, Barry. The Beat Hotel: Ginsberg, Burroughs, Corso, Paris: 1958-1963. New York: Grove Press, 2001.

Miles, Barry. Ginsberg: A Biography. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989.

Molesworth, Charles. “Republican Objects and Utopian Moments: The Poetry of Robert Lowell and Allen Ginsberg.” In The Fierce Embrace. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1979.

Morgan, Bill, ed. The Works of Allen Ginsberg, 1941-1994: A Descriptive Bibliography. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1995,

Morgan, Bill, and Bob Rosenthal, eds. Best Minds: A Tribute to Allen Ginsberg. New York: Lospecchio, 1986.

Mottram, Eric. Allen Ginsberg in the Sixties. London: Unicorn Press, 1972.

Portuges, Paul. The Visionary Poetics of Allen Ginsberg. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Ross-Erikson, 1978.

Raskin, Jonah. American Scream: Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” and the Making of the Beat Generation. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.

Schumacher, Michael. Dharma Lion: A Critical Biography of Allen Ginsberg. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992.