“America”, a poem written by Allen Ginsberg in 1956 speaks of the turbulent times post Second World War, when the prospects of the country looked dismal and bleak. The poem is a statement of those times of political unrest and urges positive change by shedding the veil of national inactivity.
BY ALLEN GINSBERG
America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.
America two dollars and twentyseven cents January
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 I
need with my good looks?
America after all it is you and I who are perfect not
the 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 back
Are you being sinister or is this some form of practical
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, everyday
somebody goes on trial for murder.
America I feel sentimental about the Wobblies.
America I used to be a communist when I was a kid
I’m not sorry.
I smoke marijuana every chance I get.
I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses
in 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 Uncle
Max after he came over from Russia.
I’m addressing you.
Are you going to let your emotional life be run by
I’m obsessed by Time Magazine.
I read it every week.
Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner
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 of
marijuana millions of genitals an unpublishable
private literature that goes 1400 miles an hour
and twenty-five-thousand mental institutions.
I say nothing about my prisons nor the millions of
underprivileged who live in my flowerpots
under the light of five hundred suns.
I have abolished the whorehouses of France, Tangiers
is the next to go.
My ambition is to be President despite the fact that
I’m a Catholic.
America how can I write a holy litany in your silly
I will continue like Henry Ford my strophes are as
individual as his automobiles more so they’re
all different sexes.
America I will sell you strophes $2500 apiece $500
down on your old strophe
America free Tom Mooney
America save the Spanish Loyalists
America Sacco ; Vanzetti must not die
America I am the Scottsboro boys.
America when I was seven momma took me to Com-
munist Cell meetings they sold us garbanzos a
handful per ticket a ticket costs a nickel and the
speeches were free everybody was angelic and
sentimental about the workers it was all so sin-
cere you have no idea what a good thing the
party was in 1835 Scott Nearing was a grand
old man a real mensch Mother Bloor made me
cry I once saw Israel Amter plain. Everybody
must 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 power
mad. She wants to take our cars from out our
Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Readers’
Digest. Her wants our auto plants in Siberia.
Him big bureaucracy running our fillingsta-
That no good. Ugh. Him make Indians learn read.
Him need big black niggers. Hah. Her make us
all work sixteen hours a day. Help.
America this is quite serious.
America this is the impression I get from looking in
the television set.
America is this correct?
I’d better get right down to the job.
It’s true I don’t want to join the Army or turn lathes
in precision parts factories, I’m nearsighted and
America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.
Analysis of Ginsberg’s “America”
“America” was composed by poet Allen Ginsberg, who wrote the poem during his time in Berkeley. This poem was included into ‘Howl and Other Poems’ and was written in the year 1956. In the time of great political unrest and a post-World War II scenario, this poem represents the spirit of America in such hard times.
In this poem, there are many prominent themes such as the previous wars of the decade, nuclear warfare and the foreign policy in Asia. Other major themes include racial unrest in the US and a resistance against communism. ‘America’ is a summary of Ginsberg’s political views and an analysis of the then situations in the United States.
In the very beginning of the poem, the speaker addresses America directly. Things are dismal and bleak, and the speaker feels rather let down. He is financially and mentally undone, tired of the wars that the country is engaged in. In the speaker’s view, America is on the verge of ruin, and he is desperate to know when the country will become prosperous again.
The speaker conveys to the reader that he is aware of what he is doing. He also thinks about the old communists and labor activists busy with their respective causes. Today, he is devoid of reason and idles away his time trying to go against the grain. He constantly stares at the flowers inside the closet, smokes marijuana and gets drunk when his attempts at hooking up fail. This exhausting routine symbolizes restlessness and the desperation of being inactive. In many ways, the speaker feels that talking to America is a lot like talking to himself.
The speaker then makes a plea full of sarcasm for the sake of poetic originality, followed by a passionate one so that the imprisoned activists of the union are freed. The plea is also for other downtrodden people. As a boy, he had attended many wonderful meetings of the communists, but that era is long gone.
The ignorant and paranoid people who blame every mishap on Russia are also made fun of in this poem. To summarize, the poet says that this state of meaningless inactivity cannot go on forever. If one wants change, then they have to take initiative themselves. The ending of the poem marks a hopeful speaker’s determination to help correct all these problems on his own accord.