Allen Ginsberg’s poem “America” seems to be a f$$$ you to the red, white, and blue. The sarcasm and irony behind Ginsberg’s words seep out of his lines and blur the image of the country that birthed this poet. He writes, “It occurs to me that I am America,” and his American identity seems to haunt him. He does not relate with the silliness of the country and says, “How can I write a holy litany in your silly mood?”
Ginsberg seems to be trying to write for or as America, but he is so disillusioned by America that he seems to be alienating himself from the country. He writes against the “normal” American ideals in his poem and embraces a non-American identity and relates more to non-American philosophies such as Marxism and Communism. The hope we see in “Sunflower Sutra” seems to be lost in “America.” Ginsberg finds no “beautiful golden sunflower” inside of America. Instead he finds “silliness,” war, corruption, and insincerity. The crisis in the poem, which revolves around Ginsberg’s distoted view of his identity as an American, is not recovered in my opinion. By taking on the persona of America and speaking for America, Ginsberg tries to resolve his issues and re-embrace his American identity, but that seems to be no longer possible. He cannot identify with America’s hate of communist Russia or Asia. He cannot identify with America’s anti-drug and anti-homosexual agenda. He cannot identify with America’s media. He cannot identify with America’s religion. He cannot identify with America. The poem ends with Ginsberg giving up on America, as he writes “America I’m putting my queer soldier to the wheel.” This line seems to suggest that he is leaving his American identity behind.
While you could argue that the resolution in the poem is that Ginsberg finally embraces his true identity as an outcast, I do not see this as a resolution. Is their a resolution of crisis in this poem? Beauty certainly does not seem to be restored in this poem like it is in “Sunflower Sutra.” Ginsberg runs away from the problem. He runs away from America, as he sees no way to relate to the country anymore. Perhaps Ginsberg resolves his crisis of identity by rejecting the American identity that was forced upon him, but this rejection does not resolve the crisis of America. What happened to the hope of the sunflower?