Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Carl Sandburg - Poet/ Poetry Study

Carl Sandburg was born in Galesburg, Illinois, on January 6, 1878. His parents, August and Clara Johnson, emigrated to America from Sweden, and renamed their family "Sandburg."

The Sandburgs were very poor; Carl left school at the age of thirteen to work odd jobs, including laying bricks and dishwashing, to help support his family. At seventeen, he traveled to Kansas as a hobo. He then served eight months in Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American war.

Eventually, Carl became an editorial writer for the Chicago Daily News. At the same time, some of his poems were being published in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. His free verse poems celebrated industrial and agricultural America; American geography and landscape; and the American common people.

In the twenties, he started some of his most ambitious projects, including his study of Abraham Lincoln. From childhood, Sandburg loved and admired the legacy of President Lincoln. For thirty years he sought out and collected material, and gradually began the writing of the six-volume biography of the former president.

The twenties also saw Sandburg's collections of American folklore, the ballads in The American Songbag and The New American Songbag (1950), and books for children. In the 1930s, Sandburg continued his celebration of America with Mary Lincoln, Wife and Widow, The People, Yes, and the second part of his Lincoln biography, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

Carl Sandburg died in 1967.


After learning a bit about Carl Sandburg, I read Sophia and Olivia six poems over a period of time. The poems as well as their reactions to them follow.

Under the Harvest Moon

Under the harvest moon,
When the soft silver
Drips shimmering
Over the garden nights,
Death, the gray mocker,
Comes and whispers to you
As a beautiful friend
Who remembers.

Under the summer roses
When the flagrant crimson
Lurks in the dusk
Of the wild red leaves,
Love, with little hands,
Comes and touches you
With a thousand memories,
And asks you
Beautiful, unanswerable questions.

Sophia thought: My favorite part is the beginning is because it is soft and pretty. I could envision it. I liked the part about the rose. It's soft and sweet, and I can picture the harvest moon. He did a very good job of describing it.

Olivia thought: It was good. I liked the part with the moon ("under the harvest moon when the soft silver drips shimmering over the garden nights...."). I like seeing the moon. It's interesting. I like how he thinks the leaves are like little hands.


Theme in Yellow

I spot the hills
With yellow balls in autumn.
I light the prairie cornfields
Orange and tawny gold clusters
And I am called pumpkins.
On the last of October
When dusk is fallen
Children join hands
And circle round me
Singing ghost songs
And love to the harvest moon;
I am a jack-o'-lantern
With terrible teeth
And the children know
I am fooling.

Sophia thought: I like that the jack-o-'lantern being a goofball, but they know he won't hurt them. He's trying to scare kids, but it's not working. I liked the part when they joined hands and sang about ghosts and love.

Olivia thought: Sounds like to me that he likes to write his poems about autumn. I like this one towards the end part about the jack-o'-lantern that fooling the children. When he first started, I had no idea what he was talking about. Then when you read it again, I knew what he was talking about.


The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

Sophia thought: I liked the part when the fog is sitting overlooking the city and sea. I can picture a cat sitting there overlooking the city. 

Olivia thought: I liked the part when the fog coming on cat feet because I like cats. The fog would be creeping along the ground...just like a cat.


Young Sea

The sea is never still.
It pounds on the shore
Restless as a young heart,

The sea speaks
And only the stormy hearts
Know what it says:
It is the face
of a rough mother speaking.

The sea is young.
One storm cleans all the hoar
And loosens the age of it.
I hear it laughing, reckless.

They love the sea,
Men who ride on it
And know they will die
Under the salt of it

Let only the young come,
Says the sea.

Let them kiss my face
And hear me.
I am the last word
And I tell
Where storms and stars come from.

Sophia thought: I haven't really seen a lot of sea, but the poem reminded me of the sea in Hawaii and how it was pounding. Also, I believe the part about how only the young should come because the sea isn't always calm.  

Olivia thought: That was a good poem. I liked it how the ocean was pounding against the rocks. I also like the part about how the sea knows where the storms and stars come from.


Between Two Hills

Between two hills
The old town stands.
The houses loom
And the roofs and trees
And the dusk and the dark,
The damp and the dew
Are there.

The prayers are said
And the people rest
For sleep is there
And the touch of dreams
Is over all.

Sophia thought: I liked it because you can picture the houses and dusk between the two hills. Also, I think it would be cool to live between two hills. I liked the last couple of lines - about the touch of dreams is over all. It is peaceful and calming. 

Olivia thought: I liked the poem a little bit. The place sounds nice since it is between two hills. I liked the part that says that the "houses loom" because it would be interesting to see how this looks. 


Who Am I?

My head knocks against the stars.
My feet are on the hilltops.
My finger-tips are in the valleys and shores of
universal life.
Down in the sounding foam of primal things I
reach my hands and play with pebbles of
I have been to hell and back many times.
I know all about heaven, for I have talked with God.
I dabble in the blood and guts of the terrible.
I know the passionate seizure of beauty
And the marvelous rebellion of man at all signs
reading "Keep Off."
My name is Truth and I am the most elusive captive
in the universe.

Sophia thought: I like this poem because truth speaks the truth. He's right because it is elusive. The part about the blood and guts is gruesome. About the part when he talked to God and he's been to hell...truth probably did all those things. 

Olivia thought: I kind of like how the first part was in space and he talked about the stars. I thought that the name of the poem was a good one. 



Anonymous said...

Being a poety myself (well sort of) I really enjoyed this post, I am one of Arlee Birds ambassadors for the A to Z Challenge. I noticed your blog has been signed in for this years challenge it's just over 2 weeks away, I hope you are all ready and prepared.
Look forward to reading some of your post during April.

walking said...

We like to stop at interesting places rather than rest areas and fast food in our travels, if possible. One of our favorite stops was Carl Sandburg's home in North Carolina!