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A Supermarket In California Analysis



Author: Poetry of Allen Ginsberg Type: Poetry Views: 6717

Howl and Other Poems1955What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whit-man, for I walked down the sidestreets under the treeswith a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon.In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images,I went into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming ofyour enumerations!What peaches and what penumbras! Whole fam-ilies shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wivesin the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!--and you,García Lorca, what were you doing down by thewatermelons?I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely oldgrubber, poking among the meats in the refrigeratorand eyeing the grocery boys.I heard you asking questions of each: Who killedthe pork chops? What price bananas? Are you myAngel?I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks ofcans following you, and followed in my imaginationby the store detective.We strode down the open corridors together inour solitary fancy tasting artichokes, possessing everyfrozen delicacy, and never passing the cashier.Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doorsclose in an hour. Which way does your beard pointtonight?(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in thesupermarket and feel absurd.)Will we walk all night through solitary streets?The trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses,we'll both be lonely.Will we stroll dreaming ofthe lost America of lovepast blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silentcottage?Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what America did you have when Charon quitpoling his ferry and you got out on a smoking bankand stood watching the boat disappear on the blackwaters of Lethe?





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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

.: :.

Only him can explain the ideas he was saying through this poem

| Posted on 2011-04-12 | by a guest


.: :.

I think Ginsberg makes it quite clear that he considers Whitman a kindred spirit in this poem - he is not at all rebelling against or eschewing Whitman\'s poetry or style. It is with thoughts and dreams of Whitman that he leaves home, wandering. The supermarket is the dry, neon, capitalist America that Ginsberg constantly fights against - it is the America that the Beats so forcefully try to push aside, an America of mass production and conformity; the vegetables, the fruits, the mothers and fathers - they are indistinguishable from each other. But Ginsberg sees Whitman and Lorca there, the only characters separate from the rest. Whitman is his shopping companion, they browse the goods together, including the grocery boys. Whitman is recurring presense in Ginsberg\'s writing, and in many other Beat poets\', so I think the idea of Ginsberg showing some kind of superiority or rebellion against him is factually incorrect. As for meaning, I think this is a lament for a better time, an America long lost, one that Whitman enjoyed and wrote beautifully about. This is Ginsberg\'s version - he says \"look Walt, you bearded old sodomite, I see the world the same way! We are kindred spirits! But look, old man, at how different my world is from the one you left behind\".

| Posted on 2010-08-26 | by a guest


.: :.

It is my feeling that this poem is telling a story of Ginsberg sitting at his desk looking for something to write about. He\'s having trouble coming up with imagery and he imagines going into a supermarket and seeing people in the aisles. His mind touches on Garcia Lorca, but then moves to Whitman. (I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the supermarket and feel absurd.) Gives a sense that that is the reality and the rest is a dream. This daydream leads to Ginsberg wondering what Whitman would think of modern American society (well, modern in 1956).

| Posted on 2010-07-28 | by a guest


.: :.

First of all, Ginsberg was trying to explain his disgust with American Consumerism in the 1950s, where food was wasted. Secondly, Walt Whitman, who was "...eyeing the grocery boys...who killed the pork chops..." was Ginsberg's vision (who was possibly on a high, literary or literally, like the previous poster said) of a man which he saw as a fatherly figure and used him to question American consumerism, where everyone could grab things from the supermarket and everything was taken for granted. 10min speech due on tuesday about this...anyone else with other ideas please do say so.,

| Posted on 2010-02-19 | by a guest


.: :.

I concluded(after looking at various summaries online) that allen ginsberg is trying to potray the united states as a supermarket, he is wondering through the supermarket dreaming of walt witman as his companion through the vast choices that he must make and the pathetic and pitiful everyday events he must endure. This also contains some of my insight after reading the poem many times over.

| Posted on 2009-11-11 | by a guest


.: :.

Ginsberg was on hallucinogenic drugs at the time. He was an avid reader and lover of Whitman. Obviously he was on a literal and "literary" high, being caught up in one of Whitman's works while venturing into the supermarket. The poems reeling in his head twisted into the literal images he saw during his stroll through the market. His daydreams of Whitman lead him to create an image of Whitman like a friend, a walking partner, a companion who experiences the same thoughts/feelings he is experiencing. Ginsberg obviously feels a sort of kinship with Whitman, comparing him to a father, a sage of sorts...

| Posted on 2009-11-06 | by a guest


.: :.

This is the problem with the way they teach poetry in school. People go off looking for deep meaning and don't see what's in front of them. Ginsburg had just moved house (not in the poem; you have to see the poem that precedes it) and was tired, and he was walking down the street with his head full of Whitman, entered a supermarket, probably to stock his new kitchen, and went into a fancy. He expresses his feelings about Whitman and about life in general. Read in that sense, this is one of the most beautiful poems in the English language.-Godfrey

| Posted on 2009-06-21 | by a guest


.: :.

The answer to that is, of course, that their poetry will go into the canon, as all great, enduring poetry does. Ginsberg needn't worry, at least not for the next few decades. The final line of Supermarket, however, shifts focus from poetic survival to human death, something no one--poet or otherwise--can escape.

| Posted on 2009-05-10 | by a guest


.: :.

I agree with the poster about Ginsberg's poetic descendance from Whitman but I think his post ignores the elegaic voice of the poem with which Ginsberg adresses Whitman--Ginsberg is not overtly "celebrating" anything in the poem, and although like Whitman, celebration was his poetic mode, so too was elegy (read: Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking). Here I agree also with the post about commercialism in the absence of nature and add only that the supermarket can be interpereted as a modern "heap of broken images", or symbols to be given narrative that have somehow lost their fecundity placed in such false abundance in Ginsberg's supermarket. Ultimately, this consumeristic vision of poetry--even though it has been made accessible to all, and therefore democratic--alienates Ginsberg as all the old figures are disposessed when the supermarket closes. We are left pondering the superb irony: Where will Whitman, Lorcas, and even Ginsberg--revolutionaries of the poetic world--eventually turn when poetry has changed so much as to render their poems obsolete?

| Posted on 2009-05-10 | by a guest


.: :.

To the 5th post down; the one about sexuality. I think you're a moron who uses a thesaurus to pick your words for you. Oh! And very boring.

| Posted on 2009-04-11 | by a guest


.: :.

When I sarted reading this poem, I imagined a big supermarket where american families used to shop in the evening. Why in California? Because there are many products in the stores from California, especially fruits.
I didn't know the names of Walt Whitman or Federico Garcia Lorca. I noticed that Ginsberg described Walt Whitman in an interesting way "childless, lonely old grubber,...., and eyeing the grocery boys".
After i looked up on the internet and found that those two names are of very famous poets. Maybe Ginsberg liked the way those poets wrote about, and even mentioned them in his own poem. It seems like Ginsberg was in that grocery store with his best friends, Walt Whitman and Federico Garcia Lorca, and shared all his thoughts and observations with them.

| Posted on 2009-02-05 | by a guest


.: :.

I have a different view. I see the poem as mainly a criticism of commercialsim and the absence of nature in 20th century American life.

the narator is calling upon the imagery used by whitman in many of his poems such as songs of myslef in which we see Whitman present the intoxicating effect that America in all its natural beauty can have on someone. Ginsberg turns this on its head in a supermarket in which all the produce of america is arranged in a neon lit headache inducing warehouse. In which we see wives and husbands treated exactly the same as the produce. The produce itself has no history, no personality. Unlike in Whitmans time there is no personal association/ relationship between the food or products that sustain the population.

As such the narrator is lost looking to the past for guidance but in a world of blue autmobiles and urban sprawl what use is Walt Whitman now. Where are his dreams. not here.

thats my take anyway and ive got to write a 2500 word essay on it so say if im wrong please

| Posted on 2006-03-13 | by Approved Guest


.: :.

I have a different view. I see the poem as mainly a criticism of commercialsim and the absence of nature in 20th century American life.

the narator is calling upon the imagery used by whitman in many of his poems such as songs of myslef in which we see Whitman present the intoxicating effect that America in all its natural beauty can have on someone. Ginsberg turns this on its head in a supermarket in which all the produce of america is arranged in a neon lit headache inducing warehouse. In which we see wives and husbands treated exactly the same as the produce. The produce itself has no history, no personality. Unlike in Whitmans time there is no personal association/ relationship between the food or products that sustain the population.

As such the narrator is lost looking to the past for guidance but in a world of blue autmobiles and urban sprawl what use is Walt Whitman now. Where are his dreams. not here.

thats my take anyway and ive got to write a 2500 word essay on it so say if im wrong please

| Posted on 2006-03-13 | by Approved Guest


.: The True Meaning :.

Allen Ginsberg describes two different worlds one with astonishing possibilities and the other (which he has know his whole life) with limited opportunities.



What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for
I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache
self-conscious looking at the full moon.
In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went
into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!
What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families
shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the
avocados, babies in the tomatoes!--and you, Garcia Lorca, what
were you doing down by the watermelons?


| Posted on 2006-01-30 | by Approved Guest


.: :.

obviously you know nothing about walt whitman...he was among the first american poets to bring up sexuality in his work...no one else had the balls in the 1850s and 60s...ginsberg doesn't at all think "the old ways are'nt working" because of whitman...exactly the opposite...ginsberg sees whitman as a father figure (who was also gay, like ginsberg) to whom he can look up to and embrace...while ginsberg and the beats definitely wanted to obliterate the syntactical and grammatical conventions of poetry in every sense, at the same time they were not so simple minded as you portray them...ginsberg saw whitman's reinvention of poetry and reinvigoration of poetry, to make it an art form where the poet could express his body, other bodies, sex, anything and everything he experienced- he saw this as a movement away from romanticism and a movement in the right direction, beyond modernism, which though lossened fdrmo the shackles of romanticism was still stuffy and not quite sure of itself...but ginsberg did not know where it was going (theres a line in the poem but im too lazy to quote it) and unfortunately or fortunately however you look at it, what resulted was today's postmodernism...ginsberg's stuff marks the real birth of postmodernism, and is a transition from modernism...but he still respected whitman for planting the seeds 150 years before, and pays him homage in several poems...

| Posted on 2005-11-12 | by Approved Guest


.: :.

Okay, here's what I get out of this:

This supermarket in California is supposed to be the literary world. Everyone there is looking for something new, something that will make them original. Those people who are the fruits and the produce are merely the rest of the world, and those who are shopping are there to use them for inspiration. "Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!--" Ginsberg is painting us a picture of people being merely the produce of writers and poets. Walt Whitman is there to represent the old ways, the old styles of writing and poetry. He is the old, ragged man in the supermarket who is picky and, frankly, crazy. "Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in an hour. Which way does your beard point tonight?" Ginsberg is trying to draw inspiration from Walt Whitman, but at the same time is showing us that Walt Whitman is down and out. He has nothing to offer but his past.

Ginsberg is trying to say, in this poem, that the world is merely used up by poets and writers. And, by the introduction of Walt whitman, he is saying that the old ways are no longer working.

| Posted on 2004-11-06 | by emo-tastic




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