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The Early Poetry of Carl Sandburg

A note to the listener:

These books were written in the 1910's and 1920's, and they use the common language of that time. That includes use of words referring to African-Americans and people of ethnic ancestry that are today unacceptable. We do well to listen to the way even our great poets once spoke, so that we do not forget that we once spoke that way.

The Early Poetry of Carl Sandburg: Chicago Poems

This was Carl Sandburg's breakthrough book. It is easy to see how it draws directly on Sandburg's life in Chicago, because it speaks powerfully of the specific character of that city, and indeed, begins with his famous poem that names Chicago as the "City of the Broad Shoulders." His poetry is deeply aware of the inner life of the city, from a homeless woman freezing in a doorway to the lifestyles of the rich and powerful. Sandburg, even in his poetry, is in many ways the quintessential newspaperman, constantly present, constantly observing, constantly taking a stand.

So, what are we to make of the poems in this volume that don't fit that model? The poems that operate on a universal level, seemingly independent of location? As you listen to these poems, listen for Sandburg's involvement with the concept of the city as something itself universal, something that seeks the truth of the city as a human institution and human environment beyond the life of one city, Chicago. Sandburg here writes of urban humanity in its essence, not merely the urban life of one city on the shore of Lake Michigan. The city of Chicago, for Sandburg, is all cities; the lake, for him, is the sea, the universal sea.

In these poems, Sandburg truly finds his voice, and brings us the universal city in all its ramifications. Enjoy!

One listener wrote: "I love this recording of Sandburg's early poems. His humanity is raw in many of the poems, it is sometimes hard to imagine he was ever young! I have purchased many books of poetry on Audible, but this is the first time I felt compelled to find the poems online and print them.... The reader is wonderful as well. He is endlessly interesting. Bravo!"

A listener writes: "I love this recording of Sandburg's early poems. His humanity is raw in many of the poems, it is sometimes hard to imagine he was ever young! I have purchased many books of poetry on audiobooks but this is the first time I felt compelled to find the poems online and print them."

The Early Poetry of Carl Sandburg: Cornhuskers

Carl Sandburg fixed his eyes on the people of his time and place. He ignored or scorned the wealthy, the comfortable, the complacent, the powerful and those who serve them; he had no time for the ruling class. His eyes were open to the immigrant, the laborer, the hobo, the farmer, the man who works with his hands, the woman who runs a family, the soldier who goes to war for them. Not for him the Man of the Masses from a left-wing poster, ruddy and muscular; he knew the reality of the laborer--the bad food, the burden of disease, the crushed mind. He saw his people and he saw them plain.

He saw them against the background of war. World War I was taking the sons of his people and sending them across an ocean to fight--for what? He ends his book with a vivid vision of the Four Brothers - America, England, France and Russia - marching heroically against the Kaiser, but he gets there only after unflinchingly fixing his eyes upon the horrors of war, the trench running wth blood, the mutilated soldier gasping for water.

He saw them against an economy that pitted the have-nots against the haves, a government rife with corruption, a society built to look the other way.

Most of all, he saw them part of a world that is fundamentally a world of beauty, a world that could have humanity as part of that beauty, if only humankind could find its way back to its own nature.

Enjoy his unique voice, his special vision, his gift for the natural language of his time and place, and his skill with that language.

The Early Poetry of Carl Sandburg: Slabs of the Sunburnt West

This is Carl Sandburg's fourth collection of poetry. His signature style, a rough-and-ready free verse that often transforms into poetic prose, is in full view. Like Whitman before him and like Masters and Frost in his own time, he puts his focus directly on life as he sees it around him, life in the rough-and-tumble Chicago of the early 20th century and life in the American West at a time when that wild country was finally succumbing to civilization.

He can be emotionally brutal; he writes of death with a rare and unflinching directness. He can also be emotionally transcendant, writing of the beauty of the world with a soaring eye.

He is a newspaperman turned poet, or perhaps a poet turned journalist; his writing has the direct immediacy of the daily beat. There is nothing dated about his work; in fact, he speaks to us today as if he wrote today, hitting fundamentals about the way we live with clarity and force.

The Early Poetry of Carl Sandburg: Smoke and Steel

This is Carl Sandburg's third book of poetry and his largest. It is also the most wide-ranging.

The title, Smoke and Steel, suggests the steel industry he knew in Chicago, Gary and Pittsburg, but he writes about many other things as well. His over-arching theme seems to be human life as a struggle in adversity, a struggle for the mere necessities of life - food, clothing, shelter, work - and a struggle for the human soul, a struggle for love, charity, justice, equality.

There is also eroticism, subtly expressed, in many of these poems; Sandburg loved beauty in every form, and the beauty of women was not lost on him.

Here you have the voice of a master poet, a genuinely and specifically American artist, at the top of his craft and passion. Enjoy!

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