Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Travels with Carl

Some observant AWY readers will have noticed that Carl Sandburg's Complete Poems has been in my reading pile for some time now. That will continue to be the case as I make my way through his 600+ page work at the pace of about 10-15 pages a day. As one of the most recognized poets of Chicago (really, the poet of Chicago), I thought he would make a good companion as I started off.

So far he's proven an able guide. Before I began reading him in earnest, I knew him only for "city of broad shoulders" -type sentiments. But he's been good company not only because of his obvious affection for the city of Chicago and its people (and in particular, its workers), but because of the humor, pathos and sheer strangeness of so many of his poems. He is democratic in all senses of the word. Back then, he was a poet of hogs, bricklayers, harbors, blood, money, jazz, boxcars, Lake Michigan, jabberers, plagues, honeycomb, beautiful women, Jesus, and the blues. If he were writing now I think he would gravitate toward much of the same, plus pay-day loans, do-rags, express buses, broasted chicken, Beamers, green cards, pawnshops, lawyers, towncars, junkies and labradoodles.

Of course, Sandburg is also a poet of two world wars, and the frustration, sorrow and fury of his poems over the suffering and death of the people he feels so much for is, in our own time of far more senseless conflict, somehow comforting but deeply sad. It reminds me what's worth writing about, and how hard it is to get it right.


Pete said...

David, I've been reading your blog for a while but didn't realize until just now that you're a fellow Chicagoan -- greetings! You've now got me hankering to delve back into Sandburg's "Chicago Poems" collection that's been sitting on my shelf for a while.

David said...

Good to know some other Chi-towners are tuned in, Pete -- thanks for reading. As I mentioned in my post, the "War Poems" section of Chicago Poems stood out for me...