Thursday, November 14, 2013

"The author must be Carl Sandburg."

The National Park Handbook to the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site contains a lively, concise (90 pages) look at Sandburg and his work written by his granddaughter Paula Steichen. Included as well are her reminiscences of her own early childhood growing up at Connemara, the Sandburg's home in Flat Rock, North Carolina.

Ms. Steichen recalls that her grandfather wrote in his second floor writing room at home; he wrote on the front porch overlooking the lake below; he wrote on street cars, in trains and depots. And he wrote, under a warm sun, sitting on the flat outcropping of granite behind their home.

Sandburg penned poems of America - about the harshness of life for the poor working man along with ones celebrating the simple beauties of the prairie, the moon, love, cities, and children.

Here his granddaughter gives a glimpse into the creative world of Carl Sandburg, the poet. 

There are boxes, files, envelopes at Connemara - even coat and shirt pockets - containing the poems of my grandfather. After his death, in the process of the family's move from the farm, I found in the small hallway between his bedroom and workroom a cardboard box that appeared to be filled with the brightly colored magazine photos he so often ripped out and saved. Riffling through them, I saw, sleeping beneath the colors, a sheaf of unpublished poems, some of the loveliest ones he ever wrote. 

Occasionally there are differing versions of one of his poems, but not often. My grandfather's poetry was generally written with little revision. The poems were sometimes typed on newsprint paper, but there are many that were handwritten in his round, strong, readable script, and these were often on smaller pieces of paper - on half sheets or on leaves torn from the pocket-sized notebooks that he generally carried with him. 

Any of these unpublished poems could be picked up and read by anyone familiar with American poetry and the reader could say with conviction, "The author must be Carl Sandburg." His style was not the product of scholarly pursuit and intention; it was an extension of the man and the man's life, coming more from instinct than design.

A bit further on, she writes:

It is perhaps equally difficult and futile to try to define a poet. In Carl Sandburg's case, the man and his poetry stand as one. You meet the man when you meet his work.


  1. I've enjoyed your posts on Carl Sandburg--they've whetted my interest in his work, which I admit I have not read much of.

    1. Thanks, Kathy. I am learning more and more about this Mr. S. He was quite vigorous - both physically and creatively. It is a pleasure getting to know more about him.

      I have been following your New England journal and am thrilled that you got to visit Walden Pond, Louisa May Alcott's home. and Mark Twain's home. (I will never use the word 'very' in my writing again!) What a treat for you! And the train ride. Wow. Such a celebration!