The day you meet Carl Sandburg is the day you see the DVD, The Day Carl Sandburg Died . Since you're a glutton for special features, you meet Penelope Niven, Sandburg's biographer. She quotes Sandburg from “Horse Fiddle,” and she describes this as the essence of his journey. “The road I am on is a long road and I can go hungry again like I have gone hungry before.
The day you meet Carl Sandburg is the day you find out he's the poet accused of not writing poetry at all. When you read The People, Yes , you think you're reading the words of a journalist who has jumped freight trains and has walked the beat along sidewalks. After landing in jail once in Pittsburgh for riding the rails, he sings, stays out of jail, eats “regular,” gets what writes writes, and a little love at home when he is not being the Eternal Hobo.
Biographer of Penelope Niven uses the letters of Sandburg as practical tools; and in doing so, she gives you the sense of having written those letters yourself. Like any great teacher or “guiding star,” as Langston Hughes calls him, Sandburg has his own kindred spirit – Walt Whitman. Sandburg pays homage to Whitman in his autobiography, Ever the Winds of Chance , while standing at Whitman's tomb. Whitman had scrimped and saved for that grave. “He did not know,” says Sandburg, “he would not need the tomb and that Leaves of Grass would keep his memory greener than any receptacle of granite.” There is the passage of the torch; and, like Whitman, Sandburg becomes a poet of urgency, called to speak louder through his writing and to speak out , not against those who are living satisfied. His critics now accuse him of writing socialist propaganda, yet he asserts his own individuality and continues on his own path.
The day you meet Carl Sandburg is the day you yearn to soak up everything he writes. And if you're a writer, Sandburg becomes your “guiding star.” You become not only a pioneer in your projects, but an adventurer and explorer plunging heedlessly into streams of new challenges. Like Sandburg, you discover you have more laughs and tears in you than any human clay pot you know. You discover your interior life, riding the rails along with Sandburg, taking his tour of Chicago, and solving all your problems even though you are lonely at times. This is the day you find the essence of your journey, one on which you can never feel lost or lonely because Sandburg is with you along for the ride on that freight train.
There is a bumping desire to reach mankind everywhere in the arts: poetry, painting, music, and the theater can no longer stand aloof and be the expression of an individual. We must have something larger. “This is a hell of a place,” says Sandburg, “for a poet without a poet desires to get his head knocked. world gets fed and clothed. ” The day you meet Carl Sandburg is the day you decide to create your own notoriety, your own story, and your own news; and after having done so, you intend to be remembered and rediscovered one day yourself.
Like Sandburg, you go from one project to the next, and you never stop learning to write. At 71, he is still experimenting, pioneering, hoboing, and studying his craft. In a public recital or in a book you write, you are only doing what you would be doing if you were home alone. You know hunger, and you know you can put one foot ahead of another and walk hundreds of miles on your journey. And now that you've discovered that you are a journeyman yourself, this is the day of being remembered and rediscovered. This is an exciting time in your creative life. Now is the time you write masterpieces and show off your bits of genius. You welcome critics who spew comments about your unfathomable writings.
The time you are spending writing is generating a readership who digs into your books and blogs. You are writers with a thousand stories. “Find a framework. Then write it,” says Carl Sandburg. “Then overwrite it and cut it down. Let no day pass without writing it … you have only to go to your memories and to the wellsprings of your own heart for what is termed material. of whatever you need to be taught will have to come out of your own loving and toilsome practice. ” (letter to Ken Dodson, reported by Penelope Niven, Carl Sandburg: A Biography )