Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Great Hunt

I cannot tell you now;
When the wind's drive and whirl
Blow me along no longer,
And the wind's a whisper at last--
Maybe I'll tell you then--
some other time.

When the rose's flash to the sunset
Reels to the rack and the twist,
And the rose is a red bygone,
When the face I love is going
And the gate to the end shall clang,
And it's no use to beckon or say, "So long"--
Maybe I'll tell you then--
some other time.

I never knew any more beautiful than you:
I have hunted you under my thoughts,
I have broken down under the wind
And into the roses looking for you.
I shall never find any
greater than you.

Carl Sandburg

Two days after Christmas 2005, and I'm listening to 'The Band'. Music that was made forty years ago that sounds as fresh and authentic as anything that is being made today. Which brings up an important topic, what constitutes 'greatness' in music, poetry or otherwise?

Today if you bring up Carl Sandburg's poetry in academic circles some accuse it of being "period poetry", "too simple" or even "propaganda". His poems are not being taught in schools as they once were, many have been removed from anthologies. There is a fairly consistent record of him being criticized both before and after his death in 1967 for any number of reasons.

But if you do a google 'blog' search you'll see thousands of references to Sandburg and his poetry in people's thoughts and postings. His work does still resonate today. People who read him remember the imagery and ideas... It still 'works' as poetry for many. Sandburg never sought the approval of the academic poets, but he dabbled in their thoughts and criticisms it did mean something to him. There will be a component to this debate in our documentary; where did the reputation of Sandburg go and why? Did his popularity eclipse his work? I welcome thoughts on this topic. What poems still 'work' for you? And why? Click on the link on the title above for a site with Sandburg's Chicago Poems (in public domain), take a read.

Come on people where are you?


Carol said...

I don't know about Sandburg's criticism. I know that I admire this poem more than any other in terms of love. I felt the words and understood the haunting, powerful, and at the same time fragile experience of love.

Literature and critical theory find their legitimacy in their elitism and pedigree. In many ways, I agree with the rigorous standards put to such work, but the experience of Sandburg's poetry and how it engages me is far more meaningful than perfect arrangement and complication. To me the ability to draw me in defines this as a masterpeice.

montealto said...

I agree that especially in the last thirty years Sandburg as poet and biographer has been sent into the attic. His marvellous voice....on the page and on record...is unique in its simplicity and elegance.
He captures a time and a rhythm that are now out of vogue. We are in a frantic superficial age that regards things he had time for as frivolous and sentimental. That is our loss. The best of Carl Sandburg is still the very best.
I felt that at seven, and now that I am seventy I am sure of it. Montealto