Study Guide

A Supermarket in California Form and Meter

By Allen Ginsberg

Form and Meter

Free Verse

Much like his idol, Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg usually writes in free verse. His poems aren't structured by a traditional form, like a sonnet or ballad. However, this doesn't mean that his poetry has no structure at all.

There are three important formal features in this poem:

  • the apostrophe (or the direct address) to Walt Whitman,  
  • the very long lines
  • the questions that begin many of the lines.

Though the poem doesn't rhyme of have a regular meter, these other formal features hold the poem together and create its own special kind of form. Those long lazy lines have the feel of a wandering thinker, much like our speaker. The apostrophe gives the speaker a chance to speak directly to his poetic heroes—to connect with them in a way he otherwise couldn't. And those questions, well, there's no quicker way to convey a sense of directionless anxiety than asking a bunch of questions in a row. Confused, much, Ginsberg?

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