Sandburg is seeing a resurgence of his Illinois roots in the most recent exhibit by the Elmhurst Historical Museum, “Carl Sandburg in Elmhurst,” and in a write-up from the Chicago Tribune on the timeless quality of his most famous poem, “Chicago.”
One hundred years ago, Chicago was not defined in the public psyche as a brawny city of industry, housing a fearless (yet laughing) population of workers, movers and shakers; a place that Norman Mailer, years later, would identify as one of the ‘last of the great American cities.” And in the wake of a brutal winter, this onward resiliency is applicable to Chicago as ever, a town Sandburg would still be proud to live in and write about.
The poem was first published in the infant Poetry Magazine in March of 1914. Robert Polito, president of the Poetry Foundation, is quoted in the Tribune on the revolutionary use of “Chicago’s” now-modern cliches. “They have a kind of omnipresence that makes it a little bit difficult for us to think and feel our way back to how original and daring this was.”
“Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:”
Sandburg’s work, it seems, is so engrained in the American identity, that it has somehow deemed his legacy as old-fashioned, says Lance Tawzer, curator at Elmhurst. But, upon closer look, Chicago, the poem and city, are still as alive, coarse, strong and cunning as in 1914.
Scheduled Sandburg Events:
•”Stormy, Husky, and Brawling for 100 Years” at 5 p.m. March 12 at the Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton St.; free, newberry.org
•”Carl Sandburg in Elmhurst” runs through April 20 at the Elmhurst Historical Museum, 120 E. Park Ave., Elmhurst; 630-833-1457 or elmhursthistory.org
•”Favorite Poem Project: Chicago” begins online in April atpoetryfoundation.org/favoritepoemchicago
The magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Humanities, recently published the feature “A Workingman’s Poet,” assessing the fading profile of the American icon Carl Sandburg. Author Danny Heitman discusses Sandburg’s bold statements made in Chicago Poems, his re-introduction of Lincoln on the eve of WWII, and his American haiku-type work in “Fog.” Heitman also cites The Day Carl Sandburg Died cast members Penelope Niven and Ted Kooser.
From the article: “Sandburg enjoyed unrivaled appeal as a poet in his day, perhaps because the breadth of his experiences connected him with so many strands of American life. Poet and performer, biographer and lecturer, salesman and singer, political activist and freewheeling newspaperman, Sandburg seemed to be everywhere and do everything, creating a personal narrative that captured the public imagination and made him a natural media figure.”
John Hallwas, a historian and columnist for the “McDonough County Voice,” recently wrote a piece on the importance of remembering Sandburg in the modern age. The column explores Sandburg’s poetic probes into the American spirit like in “Prairie,” an ode to unity in the heartland or “Mags” from “Chicago Poems” where a downcast worker laments his inability to provide a better life for his family.
Thanks to John for illustrating timely applications to Sandburg’s wise words! Read the article here: Carl Sandburg and the issue of remembrance
After its air on American Masters in September, the film has been circulating as an academic tool not only on the American Masters website with bits like a Carl Sandburg timeline and Penelope Niven’s “Last Thoughts on Carl Sandburg,” but also in forums like the recent National Council of Teachers of English Las Vegas conference in November where the film was screened for educators.
Most recently the School Library Journal named The Day Carl Sandburg Died their December 4 “Pick of the Day” for its use as an educational resource in classrooms and media centers. The segment praises it as an “absorbing production utilizing a variety of formats: dramatic recreations, kinescopes of television interviews with the author, reminiscences by members of his family, vintage film clips and stills, commentary by academics, and readings of his work by Sandburg and others.”
If you’re interested in a more in-depth look at the life and work of Carl Sandburg be it academic or personal interest please check out The Day Carl Sandburg Died on American Masters.
We were delighted to see The Day Carl Sandburg Died open to great reviews and national press back in September. Tom Brinkmoeller from TV Worth Watching explored the many facets of Sandburg in his piece while the New York Daily News gave the film four out of five stars, plus other mentions in the Mountain Xpress, Galesburg Register-Mail, The State Journal Register and more. In radio and television, Paul was interviewed by Bob Edwards on his Sirius XM show and featured as “Person of the Week” on Asheville’s WLOS-TV.
Thanks for all the support! If you’re interested in the film please head over to Shop PBS and pick up a copy.