Allen Ginsberg's Poetry

Imagery in Ginsberg's "A Supermarket in California"

In “A Supermarket in California,” Allen Ginsberg uses the American supermarket as an extended metaphor for a poet’s mind and experiences. In this supermarket of the mind, the poet can select images and inspirations much as one would search for items on a grocery list. The free-verse form allows for the free association of ideas. The vocabulary and literary techniques, especially the lack of rhyme, are an excellent display of the freedom of the poetry that characterizes the Beat movement. The first half of this poem provides excellent fodder for interpretation and explication.

The poem begins with the speaker, presumably Ginsberg as the writer, wandering the streets in frustration, searching for something. He stumbles into a supermarket and finds Walt Whitman, and follows him about, trying to use him for guidance in his own writing. The supermarket at night is the metaphorical location of the poem’s action; everything is happening in Ginsberg’s mind. Ginsberg is compelled to write this poem for several reasons. He is frustrated with his lack of inspiration and things to write about. He is looking to Whitman, as one of the most important figures in poetry, for guidance.

Whitman’s presence in the poem speaks volumes. Ginsberg...

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