Tag Archives: Poetry

Writer: Carl Sandburg

Perhaps because of his strong Midwestern, especially Chicago, roots, it's not surprising that Sandburg wrote several biographies of Abraham Lincoln - one of which won a Pulitzer Prize (to go with the two he won for poetry). Uploaded by riverrunfilm.com.

California has its artists and writers, as does New York. Lots of writers are associated with the South and New England. For some reason, those born in the Midwest – the staid, stolid, hard-working Midwest – often move to a coast to practice their art. That’s one reason Carl Sandburg is celebrated, because he made his reputation in Chicago, and only moved to North Carolina to retire.

Here’s how he famously described his adopted hometown:

Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:

Uploaded by pippoetry.blogspot.com.

During his lifetime, Sandburg published 22 books of poetry in addition to a number of biographies and children’s books. It’s probably no surprise, considering his Illinois heritage, that Sandburg wrote several books about Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, one of which won a Pulitzer Prize. He won two other Pulitzers for his poetry. He said, “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.”

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The Arts: e.e. cummings

Such playful fun with language. Uploaded to Flickr by ed ed.

Such playful fun with language. Uploaded to Flickr by ed ed.

Edward Estlin Cummings kicked the staid world of poetry in its assonance.

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn’t he danced his did

Looking back, it’s easy to criticize some of his experimentation with form as silly, but it broke ground that needed to be broken. His two great themes were nature and love.

Women and men (both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

Uploaded to Flickr by brodiemanisu.

Uploaded to Flickr by brodiemanisu.

Cummings was socially aware, and often quite satirical and caustic. But the feeling you can’t help but walk away from his poetry with is joy, a true joy of living.

children guessed (but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

In addition to poetry, Cummings wrote novels, plays, and children’s books, and he was a talented painter as well.

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone’s any was all to her

In lieu of a video tonight, here’s one of my favorite Cummings poems, first shown to me by a girl named Polly during my freshman year in college. Polly, thanks for pointing me toward this wonderful poetic force.

Chansons Innocentes: I
by E. E. Cummings

in Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles far and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s
spring

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and

it’s
spring
and
the
goat-footed

balloonMan whistles
far
and
wee

The Arts: Robert Frost

uploaded by www2.lib.virginia.edu

uploaded by www2.lib.virginia.edu

Who’s the greatest American poet? Experts might nominate Longfellow … Dickinson … Whitman … Cummings. I’d no doubt go with T.S. Eliot, and his remarkable mastery of both symbolism and language (Say this aloud: “Combing the white hair of the waves blown back /when the wind blows the water white and black.”) except that he left the good old U.S. of A. and became a citizen of England.

Which doesn’t mean that I’d choose Frost only as the first runner-up. Although born in San Francisco, he lived most of his life in New England, and his language reflected the simple things he treasured. As one biographer wrote, “With his down-to-earth approach to his subjects, readers found it is easy to follow the poet into deeper truths, without being burdened with pedantry.”

Is there a more resolute sadness than Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening? Or a better treatise on destiny than The Road Not Taken? Robert Frost spoke for himself, but his words expressed the hopes, dreams, and fears of his countrymen. In my opinion, the Greatest American Poet.