Vox Populi: A Public Sphere for Politics and Poetry
“America” appears in Allen Ginsberg’s first collection Howl and Other Poems (1956).
Much of the poem consists of various accusations against the United States, its government, and its citizens. Ginsberg uses sarcasm to accuse America of attempting to divert responsibility for the Cold War (“America you don’t want to go to war/ it’s them bad Russians / Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. / And them Russians”), and makes numerous references to both leftist and anarchist political movements and figures (including Sacco and Vanzetti, the Scottsboro Boys and the Wobblies). Ginsberg’s dissatisfaction, however, is tinged with optimism and hope, as exemplified by phrases like “When will you end the human war?” (as opposed to “why don’t you…?”). The poem’s ending is also highly optimistic, a promise to put his “queer shoulder to the wheel.”
[Text adapted from Wikipedia]