American PoetryThe Works of Poet Carl Sandburg and His Effect on American PoetryThe beloved poet, Carl Sandburg, changed the course of American poetry.
He was a poet, novelist, journalist, and songwriter, yet the influence of hisworks have not always been acknowledged. Carl Sandburg’s evocations of Americanurban and rural life, compassion for people, and his love of nature, through hisworks have made an enormous contribution to the American literary scene. Carl Sandburg was born on January 6, 1878 to illiterate parents ofSwedish decent in Galesburg, Illinois. Much of Sandburg’s literary works are aresult of his life time observations. He, more generously than many of hisfellow authors, left a detailed account of his wanderings, his numerous jobs,his early struggles, and his successes in life. His own life fascinatedhim.
(Rogers 19) Therefore, he felt he wanted to share his fascination with thepeople he enjoyed writing about. Carl Sandburg is so greatly remembered because his writing wasconsiderably different from the writing of his contemporaries. He let his mindtravel, and be free. His works included the use of free verse, colloquialisms,an original type of rhythm, and oddly structured, prosaic poetry that emphasizedkey phrases and images.
(clc 35, 338) Sandburg was the first of a long line ofpoets and authors to use the words and phrases that he created in his poetry. Sandburg’s style of writing is what changed the course of Americanpoetry. Before Sandburg, most poetry and other literary works were considerablysimilar, along with dull and boring. He carried poetry to “new horizons. ” He,many times, wrote of reality, which was not always what people wanted to read,but it was reality and it had to be dealt with. This is how his writing becameso known, because he dealt with what was real in our fantasy world.
Sandburg was not afraid to express his true feelings and thought onpeople, society, nature, and life in general. One of his finest poeticachievements is a poem called The People, Yes. It is a poem about people inlife, and everything life entails. The images in it range from a white man andan Indian man arguing over who knows more, to why children put beans in theirears when told not to.
The People, Yes covers everyday dilemmas encountered bythe common man, but have not been expressed, and it is mandated by none otherthan Carl Sandburg, the great American poet. “The people is a myth, an abstraction. And what myth would you put in place of the people?And what abstraction would you exchange for this one?And when has creative man not toiled deep in myth?And who fights for a bellyful only and where is any nameworthremembering for anything else than the human abstractionwoven through it with in visible things?”Precisely who and what is the people?”Sandburg was what some might call obsessed with people, but in apositive way. He was amazed, and at the same time also disgusted with, all thediverse types of people who live in our society. The quote above is from hispoem, The People, Yes.
The poem’s expressions of love, hatred, happiness, andsorrow is based upon the questions in life that are answered by the people. Whyare people such a puzzle? Why don’t the rich and the poor get along? Is therea way to describe and figure people out?. . .
who knows? The answer is no one, noteven Carl Sandburg, but he was the man who was able to express these thoughts ina poetic form, because he was so greatly interested with the people and theirways of life. When Sandburg’s poems were made public, people had many different viewson his writing. Some people really enjoyed it, others hated it, and others feltas if it was decent writing that you could read with a dispassionate feeling. His poems, mainly The People, Yes, were rejected just as much as they wasaccepted.
William Rose Benet, a critic, states “of Sandburg’s writing. . . it hasnot enough cohesion. It has not enough structure.
. . . it does not think through,as does the modern radical economist, the situation in which modern civilizationfinds itself. Sandburg is too interested in the half-tones of humanity, thehighlights of humor, the terse queerness. He is interested in atmosphere.
. . . Thenew sapience, it seems to me, is what Sandburg fails to show. “(clc 35,347) Now,on the other hand Amy Lowell, another critic, has a complete opposite view onthe poem’s by Carl Sandburg. “The seeing eye- Mr.
Sandburg has it to asuperlative degree, and wedded to it, an imaginative utterance which owesnothing whatever to literature or tradition. It is a fascinating and bafflingstudy this of examining how Mr. Sandburg does it. .
. . It is, more than anythingelse, the sharp, surprising rightness of his descriptions which gives Mr. Sandburg his high position in the poetry of today.
“(clc 35,341)These critics views are on the extreme opposite sides of the scale. Benet feels Sandburg’s poetry is uncohesive, unstructured, and just not sapient. While Lowell feels his poetry is imaginative and fascinating, along withbaffling. If Sandburg were alive to read the analysis of his poetry by thecritics, he probably would have writing a poem about it. It would havefascinated him, how two people could have such opposite views.
In The People,Yes, a large percentage of the poem is based on the different views and valuesof people in our society. Chicago is another one of Carl Sandburg’s well known poem’s, it is partof the first volume of his poetry called Chicago Poems. Chicago Poems wasSandburg’s first book, it was published in 1916. A prominent theme in Chicagopoems is the longing of ordinary people for the beauty and happiness they havenever known.
This clutching at dreams was not a creation of Sandburg’s fantasy,but a social phenomenon which he accurately observed. (clc 10, 447) He expressedthis city-like atmosphere with energy and excitement. Sandburg was praised asone of the most energetic and original new poets of the time. (adventures 752)The poem’s energy came from the excitement felt in the city of Chicago. “And having answered so I turned once more to those who sneer at this mycity, and I give them back the sneer and say to them:Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to bealive and coarse and strong and cunning. “The admiration of his beloved city is reflected in this portion of thepoem.
Yet the poem also expresses a sense of brutality and hatred of whichSandburg, the realist, depicts in this passage:”And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I haveseenThe gunman kill and go free to kill again. And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is:On the faces of women and children I have seen the marks of wantonhunger. “The poems, The People, Yes and Chicago are perfect examples of thedifference between Carl Sandburg and other poets who lived during his time. Hebased his work on reality, unlike others. And his originality was the basis ofa new beginning of poets who would follow in his footsteps and write literaryworks regarding reality not fantasy, as brutal as it may be. Although his works are different from many other poets, Carl Sandburg ismany times compared to Walt Whitman.
Many people believe that Sandburg wrotehis poems to imitate and reflect the works of Whitman. Whitman, like Sandburg,attempted to create a new writing style, he ” threw every English tradition outof the window in an endeavor to create a tradition that should belong to theUnited States. “(clc 35 346) Both Sandburg and Whitman developed their own styleof writing that was followed by other poets and literary writers who admiredthem and their works. Many critics feel that there are more differences than similarities inthe works of Whitman and Sandburg.
Mainly their divergences lie in the poet’sattitude toward’s death. Whitman welcomes death, while Sandburg has a passionfor life. To Sandburg- death is life’s end, not it’s fulfillment. Death iscentral to Whitman’s work, while Sandburg’s vision of life does not includetragedy. (clc 15 469)Sandburg is, like Whitman, called the Lincoln of poetry. “At a timewhen we are tempted to betray ourselves, tempted into irrationality, intosuperficiality, into cynicism, he celebrates what is best in us and recalls usto our heritage and to our humanity.
“(clc 35 353) Abraham Lincoln, when lifewas harsh and irrational made the best of it, just as Sandburg does in hispoetry. There became a time in Sandburg’s life when he no longer had a desire towrite poems. He therefore developed a love for prose, and wrote about AbrahamLincoln, a man of whom he was compared to. By the time he had written aninteresting biography on the life of Abraham Lincoln it had turned out to be sixvolumes.
(Rogers 172) There is so much of poetry and imagination, so much oftradition mingled with fact, that some may doubt whether it be biography atall. (clc 35 344)Although Sandburg had shied away from poetry, it lingered on in thebiographies of Abraham Lincoln. The documentations that Sandburg composedincluded much rhythm, poetry and imagination along with the facts needed tocreate a biography. Sandburg recognized the life and atmosphere surroundingLincoln and put it all into poetic words, just as he did in The People, Yes andChicago. He spoke of reality during the time of Lincoln, his life, and war, butin a manner that was enjoyed by the reader. From Sandburg’s pages one seesLincoln as never before, in his homely, rough, pioneer society; and from thepoet’s pictures one feels that he is seeing the real Lincoln, not all in details,perhaps, but at least in the main features of his life.
(clc 35 344)Even before Sandburg wrote the biography of Lincoln, he had always beeninterested in him. In The People, Yes, Sandburg actually mentions thoughtsbased on Lincoln. “As labor is the common burden of our race,so the effort of some to shifttheir share of the burdenonto the shoulders of othersis the great durable curse of the race. “What is so interesting about the works of Carl Sandburg is how they areall so strongly connected to each other. All of his poem’s include an analysison the common man in the commonplace.
His study of people is out of his complexinterest in them. “Mr. Sandburg loves people, I should say the ‘people. ‘ But Ibelieve it is more than that. I think he has a real love for humanbeings.
. . . For Mr.
Sandburg has a remarkable originality. “(clc 35 340)Carl Sandburg’s originality came from his desire for venture andvariation. He, therefore lead the long line of becoming poets to feel free toexpress themselves, no matter what anyone thinks. Many of Sandburg’s works wereeither unacceptable or went unacknowledged for a long time. Yet he