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Free Verse Poetry: Carl Sandburg Samantha Kelly. Early Life. Born in Galesburg, Illinois in January 6, 1878 to Swedish immigrant parents (one of seven children) Attended public school until he dropped out at the age of thirteen
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Early Life • Born in Galesburg, Illinois in January 6, 1878 to Swedish immigrant parents (one of seven children) • Attended public school until he dropped out at the age of thirteen • Worked various manual jobs including delivering milk, laying bricks, and threshing wheat, throughout the Midwestern states • Traveled the country as a hobo in 1987, returned to Illinois in 1989 • Applied for the United States Military Academy in West Point but was rejected, enlisted in the military during the Spanish-American War in 1898 but never fought • Studied Literature and Classics at Lombard College in Galesburg, where he joined the Poor Writers’ Club and met professor Phillip Green Wright, who first encouraged Sandburg to write
Career, Works, Accomplishments • In addition to publishing his own works, Sandburg was a reporter for the Chicago Daily News, in which he addressed issues related to manual labor in his own featured section • Published countless volumes of poetry, the most famous being In Reckless Ecstasy (his first ever published) and Chicago Poems • Wrote several children’s books and autobiographies, including the lives of Abraham Lincoln and his wife • Won three Pulitzer Prizes for his writing • After his death in 1967, Carl Sandburg college was founded in his memory, among many other memorials
Influential Experiences • Having immigrant parents and a poor upbringing heavily influenced Sandburg’s work- many of his poems expose the hardships of poverty and the obligations of manual labor to provide for a family • During his travels as a hobo, Sandburg’s realization of the growing gap between the wealthy and impoverished led him to adopt strong socialist and liberal political views, which can also be seen in his work • He had such a radical political life that J. Edgar Hoover and the F.B.I. considered him to be a “security risk,” which probably contributed to is distrust of the government- many poems, especially Government, contain this theme • Professor Phillip Green Wright, the founder of the Poor Writers’ club at Lombard college, encouraged Sandburg to begin writing and published several of his volumes of poetry • His marriage to Lilian Steichen, another Social Democrat, and new family added a softness and emotional element to his writing
Free Verse/Open Form Poetry • Free verse poetry has no set metre or rhyme scheme • Because the form is so broad and unstructured, writers are able to make their poems very personal and utilize images, sounds, repetition, varied sentence lengths and styles, and any other literary devices to emphasize the theme of the piece. • Throughout the history of literature, two main styles of free verse poetry have emerged… • 1: Includes long phrases, repetition, parallelism (the balance of similar words, ex: “Please take care OF your mother, OF your sister, and OF your frog”), and idiom (ex: “kick the bucket”, “battle of the sexes”, etc.). Used by such poets as Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg. • 2: Generally more structured and tightly written, phrases more consistent in length and style. Used by poets such as Ezra Pound, D.H. Lawrence, and Carl Sandburg.
Happiness I asked the professors who teach the meaning of life to tell me what is happiness.And I went to famous executives who boss the work of thousands of men.They all shook their heads and gave me a smile as though I was trying to fool with themAnd then one Sunday afternoon I wandered out along the Desplaines riverAnd I saw a crowd of Hungarians under the trees with their women and children and a keg of beer and anaccordion.
What does this poem and the guy who wrote it have to do with me? • I personally relate to the poem Happiness because one of its themes is similar to my outlook on life- some things we strive for are within our reach and we need to realize that they aren’t that difficult to acquire and don’t come by living in excess • Although I don’t live in poverty by any means, I can appreciate the issues of rich and poor that Sandburg exposes in his writing. I think people should be more aware that hardship is a very real thing and exists outside of our lives, and I imagine that some of the images of poor, manual workers trying to put food on the table shocked Americans who had never encountered that lifestyle • I don’t write poetry but when I have to it is in a free or open verse style that is similar to Sandburg’s • I’m radically liberal, much like the poet in question
Analysis • Published in Chicago Poems in 1912 • The main theme is that we cannot define certain concepts in life, in this case happiness- we must discover them for ourselves but not try to analyze them • The fact that Sandburg uses the terms “meaning of life” and “famous executives” is ironic, because these exaggerated phrases convey the fact that these are people we regard as omniscient and all-knowing, and yet they don’t know what “happiness” is • Sandburg uses meaningful and symbolic imagery in the last section that are vital to understanding the essence of “happiness”: a crowd, trees, women and children, a keg of beer, an accordion. Being in a crowd shows togetherness and a sense of belonging between people who share a similar bond. The fact that they are sitting under trees introduces the element of nature, and implies that they are connected to this greater force. The mention of women and children creates a sense of intimacy, love, fertility, and life- they are a thriving people. The keg of beer and the accordion sort of the theme of “eat, drink, and be merry” and shows that they share with one another, laugh, and enjoy themselves with drink and music.
Bibliography • http://carl-sandburg.com/POEMS.htm • http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/sandburg.htm • http://www.knowledgerush.com/kr/biography/486/Carl_Sandburg/ • http://www.poetry-portal.com/styles2.html