I make it a point to read a book of poetry at least once each year. I know that I probably didn’t like cabbage the first time that I ate it, but I love it now. So, I am hoping that through continued exposure I will develop the same kind of taste for poetry.
Thus, it was that I came to Carl Sandburg’s book Harvest Poems: 1910-1960. Sandburg, an American film critic, poet, historian, novelist, balladeer, folklorist, journalist, historian, biographer, and autobiographer, won two Pulitzer Prizes during his lifetime. One Pulitzer was awarded for his biography of Abraham Lincoln, which I read as a teenager and thoroughly enjoyed. The other, for The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg.
If I am going to ever come to love poetry, surely the work of a Pulitzer Prize Winner in the field is a good place to invest myself. So, did I come away from Harvest Poems with a greater love and appreciation for the poetry genre? No. I am such a Philistine.
While I may not have enjoyed Sandburg’s poetry, I did enjoy his Nine Tentative (First Model) Definitions of Poetry.
1. Poetry is a projection across silence of cadences arranged to break that silence with definite intentions of echoes, syllables, wave lengths.
2. Poetry is the harnessing of the paradox of earth cradling life and then entombing it.
3. Poetry is a series of explanations of life, fading off into horizons too swift for explanations.
4. Poetry is a sky dark with a wild-duck migration.
5. Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable.
6. Poetry is a packsack of invisible keepsakes.
7. Poetry is a phantom script telling how rainbows are made and why they go away.
8. Poetry is the achievement of the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.
9. Poetry is the capture of a picture, a song, or a flair, in a deliberate prism of words.
No doubt I come away from Harvest Poems a changed person, as we are changed by all our experiences in life. Nevertheless, I remain a lover of the idea of poetry but not a lover of poetry.
Here is a poem that I wrote about a year ago on this topic.
I Wish That I Liked Poetry
by Kevin Stilley
I wish that I liked poetry,
With all its cool and class;
I wish that I could yearn to read,
Tennyson and not the vinasse.
But the truth remains that I don’t live verse,
I run from it and its adherents,
But I guess that all said it could be much worse,
I could read it just for appearance.
A Select Bibliography of Carl Sandburg’s Works
Collections of Poetry
* In Reckless Ecstasy (Asgard Press, 1904).
* Incidentals (Asgard Press, 1904).
* The Plaint of the Rose (Asgard Press, 1908).
* Chicago Poems (Henry Holt, 1916).
* Cornhuskers (Henry Holt, 1918).
* Smoke and Steel (Harcourt Brace, 1920).
* Slabs of the Sunburst West (1922).
* Selected Poems (Harcourt Brace, 1926).
* Good Morning, America (Crosby Gaige, 1928).
* The People, Yes (Harcourt Brace, 1936).
* Bronze Wood (Grabhorn Press, 1941).
* Poems of the Midwest (World Publishing, 1946).
* The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg (Harcourt Brace, 1950).
* Harvest Poems: 1910-1960 (Harcourt Brace, 1960).
* Six New Poems and a Parable (University of Kentucky Press, 1961).
* Honey and Salt (Harcourt Brace, 1963).
* A Sandburg Treasury (Harcourt Brace, 1970).
* Breathing Tokens (Harcourt Brace, 1978).
* Fables, Foibles and Foobles (University of Illinois Press, 1989).
* Arithmetic (Harcourt, 1993).
* Billy Sunday and Other Poems (Harcourt Brace , 1993).
* Selected Poems of Carl Sandburg (Harcourt Brace, 1996).
History, Biographies, Autobiographies, and More
* You and Your Job (Charles H. Kerr & Company, 1908).
* Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years (Harcourt Brace, 1926).
* The American Songbag (Harcourt Brace, 1927).
* Mary Lincoln: Wife and Widow (Harcourt Brace, 1932).
* Abraham Lincoln: The War Years (Harcourt Brace, 1939).
* Storm over the Land (Harcourt Brace, 1942).
* Home Front Memo (Harcourt Brace, 1943).
* Remembrance Rock (Harcourt Brace, 1948).
* Lincoln Collector (Harcourt Brace, 1949).
* The New American Songbag (Broadcast Music, 1950).
* Always the Young Strangers (Harcourt Brace, 1953).
* A Lincoln Preface (Harcourt Brace, 1953).
* Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and the War Years (Harcourt Brace, 1954).
* The Letters of Carl Sandburg (Harcourt Brace, 1968).
* The Chicago Race Riots of 1919 (Harcourt, Brace and Howe, 1969).
* Ever the Winds of Chance (University of Illinois Press, 1983).
* Carl Sandburg at the Movies (Scarecrow Press, 1985).
* The Poet and the Dream Girl: The Love Letters of Lilian Steichen & Carl Sandburg (University of Illinois Press, 1987).
* The Movies Are: Carl Sandburg’s Film Reviews and Essays (Lake Claremont Press, 2000).
* The Sandburg Range (Harvest Books, 2001).
* Rootabaga Stories (Harcourt Brace, 1922).
* Rootabaga Pigeons (Harcourt Brace, 1923).
* Abe Lincoln Grows Up (Harcourt Brace, 1928).
* Early Moon (Junior Literary Guild, 1930).
* Potato Face (Harcourt Brace, 1930).
* Prairie-Town Boy (Harcourt Brace, 1955).
* Wind Song (Harcourt Brace, 1960).
* The Wedding Procession of the Rag doll and the Broom Handle and Who Was in It (Harcourt Brace, 1967).
* The Sandburg Treasury (Harcourt Brace, 1970).
* Rainbows Are Made (Harcourt Brace, 1982).
* More Rootabagas (Alfred A. Knopf, 1993).