Writing post-wartime poetry in America: Allen Ginsberg's "America" and Yusef Komunyakaa's "A Break from the Bush"

Essay by szenkriUniversity, Master'sA-, September 2006

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Experiencing the war effects the society deeply. Participating in the war leaves permanent deep marks on individuals, especially on creative, literary minds. Reading poems about the war or the wartime experiences can deepen our understanding. Ginsberg and Komunyakaa's poem mirrors how American society reacted to war. However, Allen Ginsberg wrote about the World War II. and Yusef Komunyakaa's war themes are about Vietnam, they are both highly critical in writing post-wartime poetry in America. Ginsberg's poem "America" from Howl is a comment on the new America that arose in the 1950s, in an extremely critical way. Komunyakaa does something very different from Ginsberg, because he actually fought in Vietnam. Both wars, the World War II and the Vietnam War was followed by an antiwar disillusionment atmosphere in American society. Significantly, Ginsberg and Komunyakaa questioned the society coming from war, expressed their protest against hypocrisy and distrust in U.S.

government and politics. Ginsberg and Komunyakaa are coming from a very different perspectives. How do they represent their criticizing views about American society? How are these beliefs differ and yet similar? How do the cultural references in their poems mirror the American post-wartime period?

Ginsberg's 'America' is a reflection of the Beat style. He was an active member of the Beat Generation - a generation which functioned as post-World War II subculture. Defined by Jack Kerouac: 'Members of the generation that came of age after World War II, who, supposedly as a result of disillusionment stemming from the Cold War, espouse mystical detachment and relaxation of social and sexual tensions.' This particular rebellion group manifested themselves in several types of social expressions, not only limited to artistic work but also mixed with special lifestyle elements. 'The Beat artists have come to identify the subculture itself. However, though the artistic production...