Study Questions on Poems by Allen Ginsberg
1. Allen Ginsberg was the leader of the hipster or Beat movement and the major spokesman for its philosophy. How is the world of the hipsters represented in his poetry? What view of the Beat generation do you acquire from Ginsbergs poems?
2. In Howl, how does Ginsberg feel about his generation? If the poem can be described as a protest, against what is he protesting?
3. One introduction to Ginsberg refers to his search for a breakthrough of the barriers that enforce human isolation and to Ginsbergs demand for an end to human isolation. How does Howl express this spirit of communality? Discuss section III of Howl in relation to this issue. What has Ginsbergs claim, Carl Solomon! Im with you in Rockland (l. 94) to do with what is discussed in sections I and II of the poem? What enables Ginsberg to declare, ah, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe (l. 71)? What does Ginsberg mean by this statement?
4. Howl is a wasteland poem, but its roots reach not to Eliots tradition of European culture but back . . . to the native leaves of Walt Whitman. . . . he has measured the nations fall from grace and sounded his own barbaric yawp of pain and disappointment. The writer William Carlos Williams wrote to introduce Ginsbergs poem, Hold back the edges of your gowns, Ladies, we are going through hell. In what ways do Howl and America depict America as a waste land or a hell?
5. In what way are Ginsbergs vision and his poetic techniques similar to Walt Whitmans? In what ways does he differ from Whitman?
6. What is Ginsbergs relation to Walt Whitman in A Supermarket in California? Why does Ginsberg envision the older poet in such a setting? Is the setting relevant to Ginsbergs understanding of his own poetry?
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