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!
A note to the listener: This book was written in 1916 and uses the common language of that time. That includes a very few instances of words referring to African-Americans and people of Central European 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.
Public Domain (P)2011 Robert Bethune
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 audibles but this is the first time i felt compelled to find the poems online and print them. not all of them, but some i just needed to see in print again. i used to have a first edition of this book and gave it to a young poet when i wasn't so very old myself. i hope he has cherished it, and i write this review in the same hope.
don't be put off by what the description says. sandburg, in these poems and many others, becomes the voice of what he hears in the street. he is turning the sound of the street, the sound of suffering, into poetry through the mechanics of his own understanding heart. i cannot say it fiercely enough: no one needs to apologize for carl sandburg or his language.
the reader is wonderful as well. he is endlessly interesting. bravo!
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