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How to Read a Poem
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Form and Meter
Free VerseWhen we say "free," boy do we mean it. One of the ideas that Allen Ginsberg, and many of his Beat companions, had about writing was "first thought, best thought." He frowned on the stuffy...
Ginsberg, like a lot of the Beats, drew heavily on personal experience when writing. More than a lot of poets, it's a safe bet to link Allen Ginsberg the person with the speaker in many of his poem...
The title of the poem gives us the where, but it's crucial also to understand that "America" is set firmly in the 1950s. In the years just after World War II, America underwent an economic surge (n...
Odds are that you've encountered a ranting individual, more than likely homeless, having an animated conversation with the air. In a lot of ways, this poem sounds like one man shouting on a street...
What's Up With the Title?
America. It's one word — just four little syllables—but it says a lot. That word contains history, politics, the lives of millions of individuals who have gone before our speaker and who are ye...
Beat Down, but Up-Beat For Ginsberg and his buddies in the Beat movement, the term "beat" was not about the rhythm of their writing so much as it was about their place in society: beat down. Don't...
(4) Base CampGinsberg made a point to write accessible lines that followed the patterns of spoken speech. You won't find a lot of elaborate constructions in this poem, but then again you won't find...
In 1948, Allen Ginsberg had a "vision," in which he was visited by the (long-dead) English poet William Blake in his apartment in New York. The visit paid off. His work would be influenced by the e...
PG-13In a poem where the speaker admits that he "never [gets] laid," (31) it's not surprising to learn that there's not a whole lot of sex happening in "America." The speaker's focus instead remain...
Literary and Philosophical References: William S. Burroughs (17)Historical References: The atom bomb (5)Leon Trotsky (11)The Bengal Famine (13)The Wobblies (27)Karl Marx (33)President John F. Ke...
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