Common Themes In Allen Ginsburg's Poetry

Since his first major poem, Howl, Allen Ginsberg has been a center of

controversy. His poems talked about homosexuality before it was considered

acceptable to discuss, and openly admitted his use of marijuana. He was an

advocate of making it legal for adults to have sex with those under 18 years

or age. Because of the views that Ginsberg had, his poems all have some

common themes. One of the most prevalent themes however, especially in

his more recent poetry, is anti-industrialism.

In Ginsberg's view, industrialization has made people less social, A

Supermarket in California is about this idea. In this poem he says that in a

Supermarket, even though one is surrounded with people, one is alone

because they don't talk to anyone. He talks about how people go home to

lonely cottages with cars in the driveways. He seems to be ridiculing the

"American Dream," saying that they have achieved that dream, but is it

worth it to live in loneliness.

Ginsberg also shows his anti-industrialism in Industrial Waves. In this

poem Ginsberg comments on the reduction of freedom that "smart cards"

would cause. He also says that while the individual's freedom is being taken

away, big businesses continue to have freedom. He says this in his usual

fashion, using a image not usually considered appropriate, "Freedom for

Exxon to examine your pee!"

In Who Runs America? Ginsberg asserts that America is run by the oil

industry. First he described the effects of oil on cities. He described the smog

and smoke over cities and across the horizon. Next he talks about all the

companies that use, and make products that use oil. Some examples of the

companies that he says are General Motors, General Electric, IBM and

Exxon. Ginsberg also points out the oil spills that are inevitable around oil

tankers and oil rigs. This is obviously an anti-industrialist poem, specifically

taking a stand against the use of oil.

Hum Bom! is another poem dealing with oil, but specifically the Gulf

War and how it started. Ginsberg says in this poem, that nobody really

wants to go to war, but wars come into existence because of a slowly

escalating misunderstanding. The Gulf War was fought over oil and never

would've happened if industry weren't so dependent on petroleum products.

Perhaps Ginsberg's most famous poem, Howl is loaded with

anti-industrial ideas. For example, in part two, Ginsberg addresses Moloch,

who, according to legends, people sacrificed children to. Ginsberg uses

Moloch to represent the modern things to which people are still sacrificed,

such as "robot apartments" and "invisible suburbs." He says that people

broke their backs lifting Moloch to heaven, meaning that people spend all

their energy on modern things such as "demonic industries", apartments,

suburbs and "blind capitols."

Throughout his poetry, Ginsberg's views on industry can be seen. It

can be seen in almost every poem he writes whether it is in there literally

symbolically. Even poems that have a different central theme still seem to

have anti-industrialism stuck in there somewhere.

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