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Allen Ginsberg's America

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Allen Ginsberg's America

Through a careful interpretation of A Defense of Poetry by Percy Bysshe Shelley and Democratic Vistas by Walt Whitman, one can gain a holistic sense of poetry, what it is and what it does, that can be applied to literary texts of all times. One can better understand Allen Ginsberg's "America" through an examination of the aforementioned texts as well. The literary merit of the poem is best recognized through Walt Whitman's Democratic Vistas, although Percy Bysshe Shelley's A Defense of Poetry also contributes some very critical parallels to the poem and its characteristics.

Ginsberg's "America" was written in 1956, a time when beatniks and beat poetry were popular. The poem is indeed a reflection of the beat style; it feels like a conversation with its spontaneity and honest tone. It reads like a monologue, incorporating a stream of consciousness feel, which results in confusion on the part of the reader, "You should have seen me reading Marx./My psychoanalyst thinks I'm perfectly right./I won't say the Lord's Prayer./I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations" (Norton 136). The confusion that Ginsberg evokes in his poem is necessary to give the reader a sense of how the poem came to Ginsberg in thought. When reading the poem, the reader feels as though he or she is inside the mind of the author.

The content of the poem focuses on what America is doing to itself and its people through the decisions that it makes. Ginsberg speaks the mind of Americans who were at the time isolated from the mainstream society. He expresses the collective fear of the (then) imminent threat of nuclear war. He also elaborates on the feeling that the entire country was run by the media, "Are you going to let your emo...

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...d further and further from the nation that Whitman knew, even greater was the need for the writer or speaker to represent the unheard, oppressed, and the masses. Allen Ginsberg, a true descendent of Whitman, did represent those individuals and allowed their voice to be heard in his poem, a postmodern American masterpiece, "America".

Works Cited

Ginsberg, Allen. "America". Hoover, Paul. Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology. New York, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1994: (130, 136-137, 635-637).

Shelley, Percy Bysshe. A Defense of Poetry. Critical Theory Since Plato: Third Edition. Adams, Hazard and Searle, Leroy. Boston, Massachusetts: Thomson Wadsworth, 2005: (537-551).

Whitman, Walt. Democratic Vistas. Critical Theory Since Plato: Third Edition. Adams, Hazard and Searle, Leroy. Boston, Massachusetts: Thomson Wadsworth, 2005: (673-685).
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