Allen Ginsberg's America Essay

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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
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"So these poems are a series of experiments with the formal organization of the long line... I realized at the time that Whitman's form had rarely been further explored..." (636). Therefore Allen Ginsberg went on to attempt this form that so inspired him and it is of no coincidence that Ginsberg's style is often analogous with Whitman's.

With reference to Ginsberg's emulation of Walt Whitman's content, the Norton Anthology, Postmodern American Poetry, states that, "Ginsberg proposed a return to the immediacy, egalitarianism and visionary ambitions of Blake and Whitman." (130). His poem "America" caters toward themes of democracy, something Whitman's poetry also does. Yet unlike Whitman, Ginsberg takes a more questioning stance on America and does not use his poem to praise the nation.

The anthology also notes that, "Walt Whitman had called for 'large conscious American Persons'. Ginsberg responded by writing himself large on the American landscape while retaining an appealing modesty." (130). Allen Ginsberg not only responded to Whitman's "call" but also to his six line poem "America" with one of his own.

Walt Whitman's call for 'large conscious American Persons' appeared in essence in his unconventional essay, Democratic Vistas. In this essay, Whitman invites such attempts as Ginsberg's through the statement, "Never was anything more wanted than, to-day,
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