Friday, February 10, 2006

Friday Poetry Blogging -- Double Header Edition

When I was a child, the first poet whose name I knew was Carl Sandburg. In fact, I thought he was HUGELY famous, maybe the most famous poet ever.

Perspective is everything.

I was born in Chicago, spent my first years in Rock Island, and after I moved to Maryland, still returned almost every year of my childhood and hung out in towns and small villages near the (now known as) Quad Cities. Neponset, where my great-grandparents lived, is one of those villages. And Galesburg, one of those towns, is Pulitzer-prize winner Sandburg’s birthplace. When I was very young, I traveled many times past the house where he was born, and I took it as for granted as I now take the grocery stores on every other block. (Poet’s birthplace, yeah, yeah.) Sandburg was ubiquitous. Sandburg was the 1960’s small-town version of a rock star.

Even though he rarely shows up in the lit anthologies sent to me today by eager publishers, Sandburg apparently still holds a position in the marketplace. I thought I’d buy his Complete Poems, freshened up and reissued in 2003, but a used version on Amazon costs $25.08, almost as much as the brand-new price of $26.40.

Maybe next month.

We all know this poem; because it’s short, it’s the one we chose when the teacher said we had to memorize a poem:

--Carl Sandburg

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on

However, here’s the poem I showed up to post. Strong in imagery, “Pods” appears to be part of a larger work, Smoke and Steel. And it’s the only poem I know about Neponset, Illinois, a lovely village about the size of your backyard.

--Carl Sandburg

Pea pods cling to stems.
Neponset, the village,
Clings to the Burlington railway main line.
Terrible midnight limiteds roar through
Hauling sleepers to the Rockies and Sierras.
The earth is slightly shaken
And Neponset trembles slightly in its sleep.

(The train tracks are off in the distance, crossing the road where it seems to dip just beyond the trees. The house that was my great-grandparents' sits left of center.)


Melas said...

I'm not much for poetry. That being said you have to understand that poetry has been co-opted by intellectual snobs. In college I submitted a poem using my own name and it was quickly rejected. Two months later a woman I was seeing submitted the poem in her name and it was printed with great fanfare and acclaim. The poem with my name on it was about the loss of a relationship between a white man and a black woman. When she "wrote" it the poem was about the loss of love between a white woman and a black woman. Not one word was changed but the author's name.

Sarah Sometimes said...

Thanks for the poems and also the context. Carl Sandburg was one of the poets admired in my household when I was growing up, I think because my parents considered him "progressive." Didn't he write a famous poem about Lincoln?

Bitty said...

Sarah, actually, it was a multi-part biography of Lincoln, and one of those parts is what won him the Pulitzer. And you're right about his politics, too.

I'm serious about buying the Collected Poems next month. I think I should be more familiar with Sandburg than I am!