Friday, 26 June 2015

Ten Reasons Why… You Might Enjoy the Poems of Carl Sandburg A personal view by Roger Stevens

Carl August Sandburg (1878 -1967) was an American poet, writer and editor who won three Pulitzer Prizes, two for his poetry and one for his biography of Abraham Lincoln.  During his lifetime, Sandburg was widely regarded as a major figure in contemporary literature, especially for volumes of his collected verse, including Chicago Poems (1916), Cornhuskers (1918), and Smoke and Steel (1920)
1 Carl Sandberg was a journalist and a socialist, and had a keen sense of and desire for social and economic justice, which was reflected in many of his poems. Despite being written so long ago his poems still resonate with us today.
A man is a man and what can you do with him?
but a machine, now you take a machine
no kids  no woman  never hungry  never thirsty
all a machine needs is a little regular attention
and plenty of grease
3 Sandburg wrote, “Here is the difference between Dante, Milton and me. They wrote about hell and never saw the place. I wrote about Chicago after looking the town over for years and years.”
4 Trafficker
Among the shadows where two streets cross,
A woman lurks in the dark and waits
To move on when a policeman heaves in view.
Smiling a broken smile from a face
Painted over haggard bones and desperate eyes…
5 He was not afraid to tackle the inequities of organised religion.

You tell people living in shanties Jesus is going to fix it up all right with them by giving them mansions in the skies after they’re dead and the worms have eaten ‘em.
6 Grass
Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work -
I am the grass; I cover all.
7 He wrote many, wonderful love poems. He asks of love,
“Is it a cat with claws and wild mate screams in the black night?”
Your white shoulders
I remember
And your shrug of laughter
Low laughter
Shaken slow
From your white shoulders
9 He was one of the first great poets to use free verse. Critics didn’t like it, especially in the early days, calling it un-aesthetic and unpoetic. It doesn’t seem in any way unusual now, but at the time it caused quite a stink in poetic circles. And as well as tackling traditional poetic subjects, he liked to write about every day, mundane things. And popular culture. Pre-shadowing the Beat Poets.
10 Lines written for Gene Kelly to Dance To

Tell your feet the alphabet
Tell your feet the multiplication table
Tell your feet where to go, and watch ‘em go and come back...


Antares said...

Thanks, Roger. Read Sandburg in my teens. You've brought him back in focus beautifully.

Ann Bennett said...

Carl Sandburg is one of my favorite poets. I'm glad you brought him up. I'll have to revisit him tonight.

Verlainelefou said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roger Stevens said...

Thanks. I enjoyed reading his poems again to write it.