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.
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.
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.
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