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.