'America' by Allen Ginsberg

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Howl and Other Poems1956America I've given you all and now I'm nothing.America two dollars and twentyseven cents January17, 1956.I can't stand my own mind.America when will we end the human war?Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb.I don't feel good don't bother me.I won't write my poem till I'm in my right mind.America when will you be angelic?When will you take off your clothes?When will you look at yourself through the grave?When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?America why are your libraries full of tears?America when will you send your eggs to India?I'm sick of your insane demands.When can I go into the supermarket and buy what Ineed with my good looks?America after all it is you and I who are perfect notthe next world.Your machinery is too much for me.You made me want to be a saint.There must be some other way to settle this argument.Burroughs is in Tangiers I don't think he'll come backit's sinister.Are you being sinister or is this some form of practicaljoke?I'm trying to come to the point.I refuse to give up my obsession.America stop pushing I know what I'm doing.America the plum blossoms are falling.I haven't read the newspapers for months, everydaysomebody goes on trial for murder.America I feel sentimental about the Wobblies.America I used to be a communist when I was a kidI'm not sorry.I smoke marijuana every chance I get.I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the rosesin the closet.When I go to Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid.My mind is made up there's going to be trouble.You should have seen me reading Marx.My psychoanalyst thinks I'm perfectly right.I won't say the Lord's Prayer.I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.America I still haven't told you what you did to UncleMax after he came over from Russia.I'm addressing you.Are you going to let your emotional life be run byTime Magazine?I'm obsessed by Time Magazine.I read it every week.Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the cornercandystore.I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.It's always telling me about responsibility. Business-men are serious. Movie producers are serious.Everybody's serious but me.It occurs to me that I am America.I am talking to myself again.Asia is rising against me.I haven't got a chinaman's chance.I'd better consider my national resources.My national resources consist of two joints ofmarijuana millions of genitals an unpublishableprivate literature that goes 1400 miles an hourand twenty-five-thousand mental institutions.I say nothing about my prisons nor the millions ofunderprivileged who live in my flowerpotsunder the light of five hundred suns.I have abolished the whorehouses of France, Tangiersis the next to go.My ambition is to be President despite the fact thatI'm a Catholic.America how can I write a holy litany in your sillymood?I will continue like Henry Ford my strophes are asindividual as his automobiles more so they'reall different sexes.America I will sell you strophes $2500 apiece $500down on your old stropheAmerica free Tom MooneyAmerica save the Spanish LoyalistsAmerica Sacco & Vanzetti must not dieAmerica I am the Scottsboro boys.America when I was seven momma took me to Com-munist Cell meetings they sold us garbanzos ahandful per ticket a ticket costs a nickel and thespeeches were free everybody was angelic andsentimental about the workers it was all so sin-cere you have no idea what a good thing theparty was in 1835 Scott Nearing was a grandold man a real mensch Mother Bloor made mecry I once saw Israel Amter plain. Everybodymust have been a spy.America you don't really want to go to war.America it's them bad Russians.Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen.And them Russians.The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia's powermad. She wants to take our cars from out ourgarages.Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red

Editor 1 Interpretation

"America" by Allen Ginsberg: A Revolutionary Poem that Resonates Today

As soon as you hear the opening lines of "America," you know you're in for something special:

They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.```

These words, spoken by an imaginary persona that is the United States of America, set the tone for one of the most revolutionary poems of the 20th century. Written in 1956 by Allen Ginsberg, one of the leading figures of the Beat Generation, "America" is a bold and provocative piece of literature that challenges the status quo and speaks truth to power.

In this 4000-word literary criticism and interpretation, I will explore the themes, motifs, and literary devices used in "America," and analyze how they contribute to the poem's overall message. I will also discuss how "America" continues to resonate today, more than 60 years after it was first published.

## America as a Persona

The first thing that strikes you about "America" is the way Ginsberg personifies the country as a living, breathing entity. By giving America a voice and a personality, he creates a sense of intimacy and immediacy that draws the reader into the poem. 

This persona of America is not the shining beacon of hope and freedom that we are used to hearing about. Instead, it is a darker, more complex figure that embodies both the promise and the pitfalls of the American Dream. 

In the opening lines, we see America as the "darker brother" who is excluded from the table when guests arrive. This is a clear reference to the segregation and discrimination that were rampant in the US at the time, especially in the South. By portraying America as a victim of racism and injustice, Ginsberg challenges the idea that the country is always on the right side of history.

But America is not just a victim. It is also a perpetrator of violence and aggression, both at home and abroad. In the second stanza, we see America mocking its own flag and denouncing its own government:

```America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb
I don’t feel good don’t bother me```

This is a powerful indictment of American imperialism and militarism, which had reached new heights in the aftermath of World War II. Ginsberg is not afraid to criticize his own country, and he does so with a fierce and uncompromising honesty.

## The Beat Generation and Counterculture

To fully understand the context and significance of "America," we need to look at the cultural and social movements that were happening in America in the 1950s. Ginsberg was part of a group of writers and artists known as the Beat Generation, who rejected the conformity and materialism of mainstream society and sought to create a new kind of culture that was more authentic and free.

"America" can be seen as a manifesto of sorts for the Beat Generation and the counterculture that followed. It is a call to arms for those who refuse to accept the status quo and are willing to challenge the powers that be. 

Throughout the poem, Ginsberg celebrates the outsider, the rebel, and the nonconformist, who are often marginalized and oppressed by society. He identifies with these figures, and sees them as the hope for a better future:

```America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.
America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956.
I can’t stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?```

Here, we see Ginsberg as a disillusioned and disaffected member of society, who feels that he has given everything to America but has received nothing in return. He is not alone in his frustration, as the reference to the date and the amount of money he has left imply. But despite his despair, he still holds out hope for a better world, a world without war and oppression.

## Literary Devices and Motifs

"America" is a tour de force of literary devices and motifs, which add depth and complexity to the poem. One of the most striking features of the poem is its use of repetition, which creates a hypnotic and almost musical effect:

```America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.
America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956.
I can’t stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?```

The repetition of "America" at the beginning of each line creates a kind of incantation, as if Ginsberg is trying to conjure up the spirit of the country. This technique is used throughout the poem, and helps to reinforce the themes and motifs.

Another important literary device is the use of irony and satire. Ginsberg uses humor and exaggeration to expose the contradictions and hypocrisies of American society, especially its political and cultural institutions. For example, in the following lines, he mocks the conformity and consumerism of American life:

```America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.```

The phrase "queer shoulder" is a playful subversion of the idea of the "straight and narrow," and suggests that Ginsberg is not afraid to be different or unconventional. By using humor and irony, he is able to criticize the dominant culture without being didactic or preachy.

The motif of madness and mental illness is also present throughout the poem, reflecting Ginsberg's own struggles with mental health. He portrays himself as a kind of lunatic, a man on the edge of sanity who is trying to make sense of a world gone mad:

```America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.```

This line is both a declaration of defiance and a cry for help, as if Ginsberg is saying that he will do whatever it takes to survive in a crazy world.

## Legacy and Relevance

"America" is a poem that continues to resonate today, more than 60 years after it was first published. Its themes of political and social dissent, nonconformity, and the search for authenticity are as relevant now as they were in the 1950s. 

The persona of America that Ginsberg creates is still a powerful symbol of the contradictions and complexities of the country. We see this in the ongoing debates over race, class, gender, and sexuality, which continue to challenge the idea of America as a shining city upon a hill.

The legacy of "America" can also be seen in the work of contemporary poets and writers, who continue to push the boundaries of what is possible in literature. The Beat Generation and the counterculture that followed paved the way for a new kind of literary expression, one that is more personal, more political, and more daring.

In conclusion, "America" is a poem that deserves its place among the great works of American literature. It is a testament to the power of poetry to challenge and inspire, to speak truth to power, and to capture the essence of a moment in time. As we continue to grapple with the challenges of the 21st century, "America" remains a beacon of hope and a call to action for those who refuse to accept the status quo.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry America: A Masterpiece of Beat Poetry

Allen Ginsberg’s “Poetry America” is a classic poem that captures the essence of the Beat Generation. Written in 1956, this poem is a powerful critique of American society and its values. Ginsberg’s poem is a call to arms for poets and artists to break free from the constraints of society and to create a new world that is free from the shackles of conformity.

The poem begins with a powerful statement: “America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.” This line sets the tone for the rest of the poem, which is a passionate and angry critique of American society. Ginsberg is disillusioned with the American Dream and the values that it represents. He sees America as a place where people are consumed by materialism and conformity, and where creativity and individuality are stifled.

Ginsberg’s poem is a response to the social and political climate of the 1950s. This was a time of great social change in America, with the civil rights movement and the rise of the counterculture. Ginsberg was part of a group of writers and artists who rejected the mainstream culture and sought to create a new, more authentic form of expression.

The poem is structured as a series of questions and answers, with Ginsberg asking “What can I do to make you see?” and “What can I do to make you hear me?” These questions are a plea for understanding and recognition, and they reflect Ginsberg’s frustration with the lack of response to his work.

Ginsberg’s poem is also a celebration of poetry and the power of language. He sees poetry as a way to break free from the constraints of society and to express the deepest emotions and desires. He writes, “I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.” This line is a reference to his homosexuality, which was a taboo subject at the time. Ginsberg is using his poetry to challenge the norms of society and to assert his own identity.

The poem is also notable for its use of repetition and rhythm. Ginsberg repeats the phrase “America” throughout the poem, which gives it a hypnotic quality. The poem is also structured around a series of long, flowing sentences that create a sense of movement and energy. This rhythm reflects the Beat Generation’s rejection of traditional forms of poetry and their embrace of improvisation and spontaneity.

Ginsberg’s poem is a masterpiece of Beat poetry, and it continues to resonate with readers today. Its themes of individuality, creativity, and social critique are as relevant now as they were in the 1950s. Ginsberg’s poem is a call to arms for poets and artists to break free from the constraints of society and to create a new world that is free from the shackles of conformity. It is a powerful reminder of the power of poetry to inspire and transform.

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