Is Allen Ginsberg’s ‘A Supermarket in California’ a poem? Explain.

Is Allen Ginsberg’s ‘A Supermarket in California’ a poem? Explain.

Essay guideline

Be specific. Illustrate your points with quotations; follow up quotations with

explanations of how a given quotation illustrates your point. Using the appropriate

terminology in your essay; supporting your points with quotation/textual evidence; and

writing a coherent, well-organized response.

When you quote a poem, use a slash mark / to mark the end of the line, & a double slash

mark // to mark the end of a stanza: ‘They fill you with the thoughts they had / And add

some extra just for you. // But they were fucked up in their turn’ (—from Larkin’s ‘This

Be The Verse’). Type your answers. Standard formatting applies (1/2” margin, double-

spaced, 12 pt. font, etc.)

Essay question: Is Allen Ginsberg’s ‘A Supermarket in California’ a poem? Explain.

A Supermarket in California

Allen Ginsberg, 1926 – 1997

What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked

down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking

at the full moon.

In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon

fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!

What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at

night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!

–and you, García Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?

I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking

among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.

I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork chops?

What price bananas? Are you my Angel?

I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans following you,

and followed in my imagination by the store detective.

We strode down the open corridors together in our solitary fancy

tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen delicacy, and never passing the


Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in a hour.

Which way does your beard point tonight?

(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the supermarket and

feel absurd.)

Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The trees add shade

to shade, lights out in the houses, we’ll both be lonely.

Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automo-

biles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?

Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what America

did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and you got out on a

smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of


–Berkeley, 1955


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