Study Guide

America Calling Card

By Allen Ginsberg

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Calling Card

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 feel too bad for them, though. After all, many enjoyed Ivy League educations and global fame. More than that, the Beats made a conscious effort to jump into the gutter of society. For Ginsberg and pals, the conformity and relentless normalcy of post-WWII America was something to be escaped, whatever the cost.

That meant drug and alcohol use (and addiction), poverty, and a rejection of the values of a stable career and material possessions. Nope, none of that for the Beats. They wanted out, and they got out, too, which was a major artistic triumph. Just look at the energy in this poem. The length and speed of its lines suggest that the speaker is truly jazzed to vent his obsessions on the page. His perspective, though, would not have been possible had he worked a 9-5. So being Beat ain't all bad, as Ginsberg pointed out again and again his work.

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