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A Supermarket in California Summary & Analysis
by Allen Ginsberg

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"A Supermarket in California" is a poem by Allen Ginsberg, one of the foremost poets of mid-20th century America. The poem's speaker—generally read as Ginsberg himself—enters the garish, brightly-lit supermarket and has a vision of Walt Whitman, a 19th-century American poet, whose work he has been reading. Whitman, for his part, acts almost like an alien placed on Earth from outer space; the supermarket environment doesn't make sense to his 19th-century perspective. The speaker imagines playfully tasting the produce and not paying for any of it, before asking more searching and philosophical questions of his poet guide. He wonders whether America has grown too preoccupied with consumerism and a money-orientated way, and in doing so if the country has lost its way and its capacity to love. The poem ends with an image of Whitman in the underworld, suggesting that Whitman's idealistic and romantic vision of America is probably already dead.

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