Saturday, November 03, 2007

Another voice and performance 'Recovering Carl Sandburg'

In recovering Sandburg as poet, we also recover ideals of American history forgotten or laid aside, both those famous folks and in the neglected people. That is why Sandburg wrote — so that American people and history would not be forgotten; so that he would inspire the people to make history happen.
-Kathryn N. Benzel

Another voice has risen in the effort to 'recover Sandburg' this time from Nebraska as Kathryn N. Benzel has written strongly about Sandburg and his work while also producing a show titled: Prayers of the People: Carl Sandburg’s Poetry and Songs.

Benzel's article and more info about the event can be found at this link.

Kathryn N. Benzel is a professor in English at the University of Nebraska-Kearney with expertise in 20th Century American and British literature and specifically in modernism. Currently she is producing Prayers of the People: Carl Sandburg’s Poetry and Songs. She’s enlisted three Nebraska voices to perform — Ted Kooser, Charles Peek and Mike Adams. Their replication of Sandburg’s unique style of lecture-recital focuses on Sandburg’s prairie poems and his favorite Americana folk songs. A performance is scheduled at the Merryman Performing Arts Center in Kearney, Neb., Nov. 16, 2007

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sandburg status debated...

On October 5th in Flat Rock, North Carolina three prominent humanities scholars presented research and opinions on Carl Sandburg in a symposium called “Carl Sandburg: Contemporary Perspectives and Criticisms”.

Symposium participants included famed American historian and author Dr. Sean Wilentz of Princeton University, Temple University professor Dr. Philip Yannella, the author of "The Other Carl Sandburg" and Dr. Evert Villarreal of The University of Texas-Pan American, who recently completed his doctorate dissertation entitled “Recovering Carl Sandburg: Politics, Poetry, and Prose after 1920.”

The presentations were lively with one prominent point of debate being the exact nature of Sandburg's poetry, was it 'modernism' or not? If it was why did it change? Was his poetry less successful for it's propagandistic qualities? And if so, what's wrong with that? How this perception effected Sandburg's literary legacy is undeniable... and central to the evolution of Sandburg's 'recovery' if that is indeed happening.

Villarreal, Yannella were joined by Sarah Perschall of the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site and participated in a panel discussion that I led that provided further insight into Sandburg’s work and public perception from a variety of viewpoints and backgrounds.

Along with each scholar touring Sandburg's home and archives and we conducted extensive interviews with each scholar. These have contributed greatly to the development of our film. This is one of the many ways we are working towards the completion of film while also bringing interactive poetry events to the public. Look for movies to be posted soon.

Ted McIrvine for the Hendersonville newspaper wrote an interesting summary, take a look.

The event was sponsored by The Friends of Carl Sandburg at Connemara, a non-profit support group to the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, with funding and support from the North Carolina Humanities Council, Blue Ridge Community College Division for Community Enrichment and Bonesteel Films.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Yevtushenko and other Sandburg documentary news

Yevtushenko at Connemara, Flat Rock NC

I'm not sure what was better, helping Yevgeny Yevtushenko finish a poem while driving down the interstate to his performance, or drinking a beer with him afterwards and discussing the decline of the American empire. In their own way, each were memorable moments, and yet again reminders of the remarkable journey making this film continues to be. The poem was a tribute to Sandburg and Steichen and he performed it to great effect.

In 1959, Yevtushenko was an emerging young Soviet poet who dared to write anti-Stalinist words in the heat of the Cold War. When Carl Sandburg and Edward Steichen visited Moscow for the famous exhibition of Steichen's 'The Family of Man' photo exhibit Sandburg and Steichen both spent time with the promising young poet. The day after his performance at Wofford College in Spartanburg South Carolina we interviewed Yevtushenko for our film, with him telling us how the time spent with these two iconic Americans significantly influenced his view of the world and his career. Look for a clip to be posted soon.
(Yev working on the poem)

Also in April we spent an intense and enthusiastic few days in Galesburg Illinois capturing an extensive interview with professor and poet Robin Metz, a debut performance by slam poet Marc Smith of his tribute to Carl Sandburg (along with an entertaining interview) and some of the sharpest slam poets in the country performing Sandburg poems in a bar packed with poetry fans and competitors. It was exciting and expanding material for the evolution of our documentary.

Finally even more good news. We've received a grant from the Illinois Humanities Council, and with that we'll be able to afford to make another research and production trip back the the state of Sandburg's birth. And! we have just been awarded a North Carolina Humanities Council award which will enable us to host a number of Sandburg scholars in Flat Rock for interviews and public presentations early this fall.

Monday, April 16, 2007

New York buzzed with Carl Sandburg 'Modernist'

At least for a few hours on Wednesday April 4th New York City was talking Sandburg. Poems were read and comments made, Lukas Foss delicately played a segment of the Cantata Sandburg inspired him to write, and the poet’s character was sketched out before an attentive audience at New York University.

Amidst it all was a prevailing theme: Sandburg means something. Sandburg did something different. Sandburg contributed something unusual to the development of poetry and American history. Readers might be surprised to find this talked about as a “new idea”. But for many who were introduced to poetry years ago in grade school with his simple “Fog” he may be seen as a gentle, sentimental, and one-dimensional poet, if he is remembered at all. It’s a bit like a John Lennon being remembered only for a Nike commercial jingle.

What is even more interesting is that notable critics, writers and other poets have held this assumption. There are multiple reasons for this, including his celebrity status in his later years, academic bias’ for more ‘refined’ poetry, competition from contemporary writers (the first half of the twentieth century did produce a fantastic range of American poetry) and the all too common rebellion and rejection of the previous generation’s heroes and ideals.

The event, curated by writer, Paul Berman posed the question: “Sandburg, Modernist?”
The responses coming from the speakers seemed to be a resounding “yes.” Take a look at the attached clips from the event that will give you a better sense of the conversation.

Here is a clip from our interview with Geoffry OBrien the next day giving the discussion on Sandburg some addtional context.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Spring 2007

Spring slips back with a girl face calling always: "Any new songs for me? Any new songs?"
-Carl Sandburg, from Cornhuskers, 1918

April stands to be an exciting month for the Carl Sandburg documentary production as we plan on capturing some provocative and interesting people and events.

First, on April 4th we'll be in New York City to interview Author Paul Berman, editor of American Poets Project edition of "Carl Sandburg: Selected Poems" and capture a unique event at N.Y.U. “Carl Sandburg and His Modernism: Writers, Musicians, and Artists Look Back” including Berman, poets Edward Hirsch, Geoffrey O'Brien, Meghan O'Rourke, and Harvey Shapiro and historian Sean Wilentz, reading and commenting on Sandburg's work. Lukas Foss, recognized as one of America's major modernist composers, will perform a portion of his cantata "Prairie" (inspired by Sandburg) on piano, together with Greenwich Village Singers.

On April 19th and 20th, Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, The Friends of Carl Sandburg at Connemara, and Bonesteel Films will be bringing internationally known poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko to perform and be interviewed for the film. This exciting performer was influenced strongly by the American poet and met Sandburg and brother-in-law Edward Steichen in Moscow in 1959.

And finally, we'll attend the Sandburg Days Festival in Galesburg Ill. on April 26th-28th to capture noted 'slam poet' Marc Smith's performance of "Sandburg to Smith — Smith to Sandburg" a performance poetry event combining Sandburg and Smith's poetry with a live jazz. While in Galesburg additional research and interviews will be conducted with poet Robin Metz and others.

There will no doubt be some intesting pictures, stories and poems that come out of these events. Stay tuned...

Monday, January 22, 2007

Norman Corwin Interviewed

"I believe the announcement of the utter extinction of Carl Sandburg, beyond hope of rescue or resurrection, should be taken with a grain of salt: and I would recommend to the undertakers of academe that each of them take a few grains of Valium before delivering a funeral oration over any corpus of serious writing whose ink has hardly dried." -Norman Corwin

Los Angeles, California January 16, 2007

In May of 2007, Norman Corwin will turn 97 years old. His life is filled with more stories, adventures and accomplishments than perhaps anyone else we've interviewed for the Carl Sandburg documentary (see his bio link above). He was one of Sandburg's best friends and the poet thought of him as a Son.

The interview was conducted in his pleasant home in Los Angeles, amid shelves of books and ephemera collected through his lifetime. This longtime radio, book, stage and screenwriter told us stories about Ed Murrow, Marilyn Monroe, Arthur Miller and of course Sandburg. But there were more than anecdotes from Corwin about Sandburg. Corwin has written numerous articles defending the lambasting that Sandburg's literary reputation has taken over the years.

Backed by his significant reputation as a landmark communicator of the 20th Century, Mr. Corwin's thoughts on the lasting value of Sandburg challenge many of the harsher critic's views. From the war poems of Sandburg to his children's stories to "The People, Yes" Corwin gave credit to Sandburg's voice as a primary influence on his own accomplishments. The time I spent with Mr. Corwin has boosted my optimism that this film is evolving into one that can not only force the re-thinking Sandburg, but perhaps a fair bit more than that.

Director Paul Bonesteel talks with Norman Corwin, Photo by Evan Schafer