The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Wales Visitation” is written in free verse and divided into nine stanzas. As is usual with Allen Ginsberg’s writing, the poem uses the convention of cataloging, begun in American poetry with Walt Whitman, the American poet who has most influenced him. Originating with a visit to Wales that Ginsberg took in July, 1967, the poem records his response to this visit and describes some of the beautiful scenery in Wales that he, as had so many earlier poets, admired. The poem was also inspired by an LSD experience, during which Ginsberg was trying to move beyond his earlier tendency to reflect haunting visions within his consciousness; instead, he wanted to record with concrete detail the outside, the particular, world. As a result, the poem is a series of concrete descriptions of the Welsh landscape.

Highly personal in tone, the poem falls in the tradition of meditations initiated in the English Romantic period and particularly seen in William Wordsworth’s “Lines: Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey,” to which Ginsberg refers in his poem. The first-person point of view and the references to self in “Wales Visitation” suggest that the poet’s concern is with a subjective response to the outside world.

As the poem begins, the speaker, Ginsberg himself, sets a tone of awe at the beauty of the Welsh landscape and refers to trees as “mountain-brow” covered with “white fog,” to clouds rising “as on a wave,” and to “mist above teeming ferns” on the edge of a “green crag.” He immediately lets the reader know that the poem is about his response to and interaction with the glory and beauty of the natural world.

That the poem is also about the creative process of the poet-self becomes...

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