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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Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Ginsberg’s free verse employs cataloging so as to saturate the reader’s mind with emotion and images. The most frequently used poetic devices in the poem are imagery, simile, metaphor, and personification. The poem consists of a series of images of the natural world to which the poet is responding and by which he is being inspired.

Almost all the poem’s concrete imagery evokes positive responses from the reader, as it did, one can assume, for the poet himself. The well-known Welsh fog and mist are symbolic of the spirit within the natural world, and all the poem’s images of the natural world are described as being in motion, suggesting their vitality and spirit. Ginsberg is noted for a style in which few pauses occur between ideas and images. Imagery as a poetic device is seen when the poet describes the mist as “gigantic” and “eddy-lifting,” the ferns as “teeming” and exquisite, and the “satanic” and symmetrical thistle as “sister” to “green-daisies’ pink tiny/ bloomlets.” In the last image, Ginsberg is trying to exorcise the demons of his inner consciousness and move beyond the poetry of merely inner vision he had written earlier.

More particular types of poetic devices in the poem are simile and personification. The speaker compares the rising of the clouds “as on a wave” (a simile), and another striking simile is the second stanza’s description of the “pink tiny/ bloomlets angelic as lightbulbs.”...

(The entire section is 517 words.)


(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

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