Radical Sandburg Essay

This essay has a total of 1393 words and 7 pages.

Radical Sandburg



Radical Sandburg
Carl August Sandburg was born in Galesburg, Illinois on January 6, 1878. His parents,
August and Clara Johnson, were immigrants from Sweden. After he encountered many August
Johnsons in his job with the railroad, Carl’s father decided to rename the family. The
Sandburgs were poor and as a result, Carl had to quit school at the age of thirteen to
drive a milk truck and deliver milk to help support the family. At seventeen, Carl
Sandburg went to Kansas as a hobo. During the eight months that he served in Puerto Rico
for the Spanish American war, he encountered a student from Lombard College (now Knox
College), the college located in his hometown. He was convinced to enroll there after the
war. At Lombard College, Carl Sandburg wrote his first poems which attracted the
attention of Professor Phillip Green Wright, who encouraged the writing as well as paid
for the publication of Sandburg’s first volume of poetry in 1904, called Reckless Ecstasy.
Even though he attended Lombard College for four years, he never received his degree,
although he did receive many honorary degrees later in his life. After college, Sandburg
moved to Milwaukee and became a journalist. There he met and married Lillian Steichen.
Earlier he had adopted many socialist views and in Wisconsin he had the chance to serve as
the secretary to the first socialist mayor in Milwaukee from 1910 to 1912. After that, he
moved to Chicago and wrote for the Chicago Daily News

Wilson 2
and had his poems published in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. The editor liked his
distinctly different style of poetry and encouraged him to write more. He became more
widely known with the publishing of Chicago Poems in 1916. Cornhuskers was published in
1918 and then Smoke and Steel in 1920. When Sandburg was twenty, he began collecting
information for a biography of his childhood hero, Abraham Lincoln. He collected
information for this project for 30 years. While he was collecting information for this
six-volume biography, he also began collecting folklore for his children books. When he
finally finished the biography of Lincoln in 1939, Sandburg was awarded the Pulitzer Prize
and then received a second Pulitzer Prize in 1951 for his Complete Poems. From 1945 on,
Sandburg lived in Flat Rock, North Carolina and bred prize-winning goats. Sandburg died
in his North Carolina home on July 22, 1967. His ashes were placed under Remembrance Rock
in Carl Sandburg Park behind his childhood home. Throughout his life, Sandburg drew major
opposition due to his radical attitude. (“Carl Sandburg” 461).

Sandburg is a definite radical. A radical is someone that is very different from the
normal. Sandburg is very different from his contemporaries in his poetry and ideas. In
his early years, Sandburg’s style of writing was said to offer an “important challenge to
traditional forms of poetry” (Lowell 337). Sandburg wrote completely different from the
other poets in his time and incorporated unusual subjects and ideas for that time. In his
early books, he talked about aspects of urban life, which had not been talked about much
before in poetry. His focus is mainly on the common person, he cares and believes deeply
in people (MacLeish 20). He is concerned with the poetry itself and leaves the

Wilson 3
colloquial speech unpolished. Many people enjoy Sandburg’s style of writing and enjoy his
straying from the normal subjects and want to see other poets accept this poetic manner.
There are also those that oppose this radical style. Sandburg’s choice to let his
subjects talk for themselves make many critics accuse him of being a folklorist and not a
poet at all (Lowell 337-338). Another major objection to Sandburg’s type of poetry is the
lack of development in it. When asked of his feelings about Sandburg, Robert Frost said
that Sandburg’s writing “is like playing tennis with the net down” (Angyal 2450). Frost,
a poetic rival clearly does not like Sandburg’s writing style and thinks it is unnatural,
as do many critics. The New York Times Book Review said, “Some of it is poetry, some is
decidedly not poetry. It is a pity that so many writers are bent on confusing the terms…”
(Lowell 338) This very different poet has a definite line dividing those who accept
Sandburg and those who oppose this radical.

Carl Sandburg’s ideas are very shocking to many people. His radicalism includes opinions
about life and the welfare of society. When commenting on Smoke and Steel, one of
Sandburg’s books, the Times Literary said,

What does it matter (he seems to say) that the Parthenon is the supreme expression of a
supreme expression of a supreme wisdom, that Shakespeare is the supreme poet of tragedy
Continues for 4 more pages >>