Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Year of the Book #41 CARL SANDBURG

My Pocket Book of Modern Verse has just 2 poems of Carl Sandburg. One called “Lost”, is part of “Chicago Poems”, the collection of poetry published in 1916 that first got Sandburg recognition.

Desolate and alone

All night long on the lake

Where fog trails and mist creeps,

The whistle of a boat

Calls and cries unendingly,

Like some lost child

In tears and trouble

Hunting the harbor's breast

And the harbor's eyes.

The second poem you will be hard put to find in almost any Carl Sandburg collection, but it made that particular page in my Pocket Book one of the most thumbed. And it is the one that I will always remember Carl Sanburg by.

It is simply called “They Have Yarns.” (see below)

Carl Sandburg wrote all kinds of stuff, apart from poems. He wrote a collection of children’s stories called The Rootabaga stories, which he described as ". . . attempts to catch fantasy, accents, pulses, eye flashes, inconceivably rapid and perfect gestures, sudden pantomimic moments, drawls and drolleries, gazings and musings--authoritative poetic instants--knowing that if the whir of them were caught quickly and simply enough in words, the result would be a child lore interesting to child and grown-up."

His biography of Abraham Lincoln (Abraham Lincoln : The War Years) won him one of his 3 Pulitzer Prizes, the other two for his poetry. And if Wikipedia is to be believed, apparently Steven Speilberg said that the face of E.T. was a combination of Carl Sandburg,  Albert Einstein & Ernest Hemingway!


    They have yarns

    Of a skyscraper so  tall they had to put hinges on the  two top stories so to let the moon  go by,

    Of one corn crop  in Missouri when the roots went so  deep and drew off so much water

    The Mississippi riverbed  that year was dry.

    Of pancakes so thin  they had only one side,

    Of "a fog so  thick we shingl'ed the barn and six  feet out on thefog,“

    Of Pecos Pete straddling  a cyclone in Texas and riding it  to the west coast where "it rained  out under him,“

    Of the man who  drove a swarm of bees across the  Rocky Mountains and the Desert "and  didn't lose a bee.“

    Of a mountain railroad  curve where the engineer in his cab  can touch the caboose and spit in  the conductor's eye,

    Of the boy who  climbed a cornstalk growing so fast he  would have starved to death if they  hadn't shot biscuits up to him,“

    Of the old man's  whiskers: "When the wind was with  him his whiskers arrived a day before  he did,“

    Of the hen laying  a square egg and cackling, "Ouch!  " and of hens laying eggs with  the dates printed on them,

    Of the ship captain's  shadow: it froze to the deck one  cold winter night,

    Of mutineers on that  same ship put to chipping rust with  rubber hammers,

    Of the sheep-counter  who was fast and accurate: "I just  count their feet and divide by four,“

    Of the man so  tall he must climb a ladder to shave  himself,

    Of the runt so  teeny-weeny it takes two men and a  boy to see him,

    Of mosquitoes: one  can kill a dog, two of them a  man,

    Of a cyclone that  sucked cookstoves out of the kitchen,  up the chimney flue, and on to the  next town,

    Of the same cyclone  picking up wagon-tracks in Nebraska and  dropping them over in the Dakotas,

    Of the hook-and-eye  snake unlocking itself into forty pieces,  each piece two inches long, then in  nine seconds flat snapping
    itself together again,

    Of the watch swallowed  by the cow: when they butchered her  a year later the watch was running  and had the correct time,

    Of horned snakes,  hoop snakes that roll themselves where  they want to go, and rattlesnakes carrying  bells instead of
    rattles on their tails,

    Of the herd of  cattle in California getting lost in a  giant redwood tree that had been hollowed  out,

    Of the man who  killed a snake by putting its tail  in its mouth so it swallowed itself,

    Of railroad trains  whizzing along so fast they reached the  station before the whistle,

    Of pigs so thin  the farmer had to tic knots in their  tails to keep them from crawling through  the cracks in their pens,

    Of Paul Bunyan's big  blue ox, Babe, measuring between the eyes  forty-two ax-handles and a plug of Star  tobacco exactly,

    Of John Henry's hammer  and the curve of its swing and his  singing of it as " a rainbow  round my shoulder."
    They have yarns . . .

made me go back again

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's only half the poem. Why stop there?