On the surface, Sandra Gilbert’s poem “Sonnet: The Ladies Home Journal” and Allen Ginsberg’s poem “A Supermarket in California” have little in common.
The first, by a noted feminist, is short, contained, and more formal; it deals with the world of advertising and print media and its affects on women’s ideas of self.
Ginsberg’s poem is longer and looser, but it also deals with the effects of tradition and expectations on a search for self. While Gilbert’s poem wasn’t written until 1984, its subject of the “bygone life” of a “neat mom” conjures the conservative 1950s against which Ginsberg was rebelling.
Additionally, the two poets’ choices in terms of poetic elements and form provide a nice juxtaposition. However, each poem provides enough material to fill an entire class on its own.
Poems are not included in the packet because of copyrights.
These handouts of thorough and precise questions are ready to go with minimal prep on the part of the teacher.
Questions encourage close reading, analysis of poetic elements, as well as deeper thinking and discussion about the themes and big ideas of the poems.
There are also prompts for in-class writing as well as for longer assessment.
Pairings: These poems could be taught with any texts that deal with conformity, the American Dream, women’s rights, rebellion, tradition, or materialism such as The Great Gatsby, The Death of a Salesman, The Awakening, The Catcher in the Rye, Hamlet, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Huckleberry Finn.
Looking for more poetry lessons for your American Literature class? Check out my American Literature Poetry Bundle: Focus on Immigration and the American Dream
which includes enough material for three weeks of lessons, everything you need to teach your students how to analyze poetry, and then get them exploring, discussing, and writing about the bigger themes of American Literature such as materialism, love, race, family dynamics, class, immigration, language, tradition, the search for the self and the American dream.