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Carl Sandburg: Poet

Updated on August 17, 2014

An original poet . . .

Sandburg's poems Grass, Chicago, Fog, and a few others I learned in grade school, but I realized how many, many poems of his I'd never read. I created this lens to know more about Carl Sandburg, and share it with others. This lens only scratches the surface but I hope you enjoy being introduced to Carl Sandburg, or spending time with a poet already familiar.

I've written some poetry

I don't understand myself.

~ Carl Sandburg ~

I never made a mistake in grammar but one in my life and as soon as I done it I seen it.

~ Carl Sandburg ~

The South Wind Says So

by Carl Sandburg

If the oriole calls like last year

when the south wind sings in the oats,

if the leaves climb and climb on a bean pole

saying over a song learnt from the south wind,

if the crickets send up the same old lessons

found when the south wind keeps on coming,

we will get by, we will keep on coming,

we will get by, we will come along,

we will fix out hearts over,

the south wind says so.

photo: found ar mfmurray / photobucket

Bio Bits

Early Years


January 6, 1878 in Galesburg, IL


August and Clara Johnson immigrated to the U.S. from northern Sweden.

The family name was changed to Sandburg because of the abundance

of August Johnsons already in the U.S.

Carl's father worked for the railroad.


Left school at the age of 13 to work, helping to support his family.

Among other jobs, Carl was a dishwasher and a layer of bricks.


At seventeen Carl went to Kansas as a hobo.

Served 8 mos. in Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American war.


Carl worked his way through Lombard College, in his hometown.

Professor Philip Green Wright was a literary mentor to Carl and published Sandburg's

first book: a pamphlet called Reckless Ecstasy (1904).

Carl left without a diploma after 4 years at Lombard.

Home where Sandburg was born in Galesburg, IL

The Carl Sandburg State Historic Site

pictured above

The small frame home, architecturally significant as a "workingman's cottage," contains three rooms-parlor, bedroom, and kitchen. Carl Sandburg was born here January 6, 1878. Several original family items are on display, along with other simple, utilitarian furnishings typical of the era.

Behind the cottage is a tranquil garden where the ashes of Sandburg and his wife lie beneath a red granite boulder, "Remembrance Rock," the title of his only novel. Benches and garden plantings contribute to the quiet solitude of the area. A series of flagstones inscribed with quotations from Sandburg's writings is known as "Quotation Walk."

Also on the site is a two-story Greek Revival frame house built in 1858. The house currently serves as the site visitor center. On the main floor are a small video theater, the site office, a museum shop, public restroom, and small exhibit gallery.

Guided tours of the cottage are conducted upon request. In the visitor center, guests may tour the exhibit gallery, shop at the museum store, and view a video on Sandburg that was produced for the television series "Legends from the Land of Lincoln." Visitors may view the garden behind the cottage, and a free brochure is available that identifies the Sandburg quotations displayed along "Quotation Walk." The visitor center's first floor and the birthplace cottage are accessible to persons with disabilities.

The site hosts special events including "Songbag Folk Concerts" and the "Sandburg Days Festival" in April. The Carl Sandburg Historic Site Association supports site programs.

Valley Song

by Carl Sandburg

Your eyes and the valley are memories.

Your eyes fire and the valley a bowl.

It was here a moonrise crept over the timberline.

It was here we turned the coffee cups upside down.

And your eyes and the moon swept the valley.

I will see you again tomorrow.

I will see you again in a million years.

I will never know your dark eyes again.

These are three ghosts I keep.

These are three sumach-red dogs I run with.

All of it wraps and knots to a riddle:

I have the moon, the timberline, and you.

All three are gone -- and I keep all three.

Grass (video)

Complete Poems

The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg
The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg

The definitive edition of the Pulitzer Prize-winning collection. "A marvelous prosody, a perfect ear for the beautiful potentials of common speech, something he learned from folk song, but mostly he learned from just listening" (Kenneth Rexroth).


Carl Sandburg

Carl Sandburg
Carl Sandburg

Bio Bits



Carl moved to Milwaukee.

He worked as an advertising writer and a newspaper reporter.

He married Lillian Steichen (Sandburg called her Paula); they had 3 children.


Sandburg was a Socialist sympathizer at this time in his life.

He worked for the Social-Democratic Party in Wisconsin.

From 1910 - 1912 Carl was the first Socialist mayor of Milwaukee.


The Sandburgs moved, taking up residence in Chicago.

Carl worked for the Chicago Daily News as an editorial writer.

Some of Sandburg's poems were printed in the new Poetry: A Magazine for Verse.

Carl became a familiar member of the literary renaissance taking place in Chicago.

Published Chicago Poems (1916), Cornhuskers (1918) and Smoke and Steel (1920).

He became known as a poet of free verse about agricultural and industrial U.S.,

landscape, and America's "common" people.

Seven Eleven

by Carl Sandburg

Among the grackles in a half circle on the grass

Two walked side by side on two legs apiece.

Treetops bent in the wind and bird nests shuddered.

This was why and only why the grackles sat in a half circle.

Seven grackles came at first and sat in the half circle.

Then there were eleven came with two legs apiece and sat in.

The might have been crapshooters full of hope and hot breaths.

They might have been believers in luck, come seven, come eleven.


by Carl Sandburg

Every man spins a web of light circles

And hangs this web in the sky

Or finds it hanging, already hung for him,

Written as a path for him to travel.

The white spiders know how this geography goes.

Their feet tell them when to spin,

How to weave in a criss-cross

Among elms and maples, among radishes and button weeds,

Among cellar timbers and old shanty doors.

Not only the white spiders, also the yellow and blue,

Also the black and purple spiders

Listen when their feet tell them to spin one.

And while every spider spins a web of light circles

Or finds one already hung for him,

So does every man born under the sky.

art: found ar jnke1 / photobucket

Back of every mistaken venture

and defeat is the laughter

of wisdom, if you listen.

~ Carl Sandburg ~

Under the Capitol Dome

by Carl Sandburg

There are those who speak of confusion today

as though yesterday there was order

rather than confusion.

There are those who point to confusion today

as though if given a chance

they could tomorrow transform it into order.

There are those who find benefits in confusion

and make it a labor of delight

to render any confusion more confounded.

There are those who expect today's confusion

to be followed by another tomorrow,

these two confusions being different from each other.

The confusions of being born are followed

by the confusions of how to live

until a final moment when a stilled heart

holds release complete and absolute

from all former and earlier confusions.

When one confusion transforms itself into another

there has been a death and a birth

though the newborn confusion

becomes known only across time and silence.

When a confusion results

from seeing what is not all there

it is an identical twin of the confusion

to follow the hearing of what is not all there.

When a witness says

there was confusion in what he saw

and he can't therefore be sure of what he saw,

he may be a strictly honest witness.

A fine sunrise or an elegant sunset

achieves moving colors and masses of changing light

in a properly organized confusion.

The orderly marches

of the night stars and constellations

when looked at by powerful telescopes

hold flagrant and flaming confusions.

art: found ar AhsumRon / photobucket

. . . with Sandburg it is the body of the work that weighs, the sum

of it, a whole quite literally greater than the total of its parts. . . .

Sandburg had a subject -- and the subject was belief in man.

~ Archibald MacLeish ~


See results

The Wind on the Way

by Carl Sandburg

Every day is the last day.

I have waited for tomorrow

And it has never come.

A wash of sand on the beaches

And we handle it soft and write

Our names on it.

The sand goes out, comes in,

And there is not tomorrow, no yesterday.

Everything is now.

I have heard sopranos in great cathedrals

Sing these high and low spokes of light.

And I have heard lonesome accordion players

Ring the changes on it hi-hi and lo-lo.

Every day is the last day.

Tomorrow is the wind on the way.

Sandburg Home in North Carolina

Sandburg Home, NC

Sandburg Barns, NC

Bio Bits

After 40


Carl began studying Abraham Lincoln, someone he admired since childhood.

He collected material on Lincoln for 30 years.

Sandburg eventually wrote a 6 volume biography of Lincoln

The second part of his Lincoln biography (1939) won Sandburg the Pulitzer Prize.


Sandburg's interest in American folklore resulted in The American Songbag.

The New American Songbag was published in 1950.

Carl wrote story books and poems for children.


Sandburg's Mary Lincoln, Wife and Widow was published in 1932.

The People, Yes was printed in 1936.

Sandburg was awarded a second Pulitzer for his Complete Poems, 1950.

The last two of his poetry volumes were Harvest Poems, 1910-1960 (1960)

and Honey and Salt (1963).


In 1945 the Sandburg's pruchased "Connemara," a beautiful 245-acre farm in Flat Rock, North Carolina.

Sandburg began his first novel at the age of 65.

Carl Sandburg died in 1967.

Winter Gold

by Carl Sandburg

The same gold of summer was on the winter hills,

the oat straw gold, the gold of slow sun change.

The stubble was chilly and lonesome,

the stub feet clomb up the hills and stood.

The flat cry of one wheeling crow faded and came,

ran on the stub gold flats and faded and came.

Fade-me, find-me, slow lights rang their changes

on the flats of oat straw gold on winter hills.


by Carl Sandburg

There are no handles upon a language

Whereby men take hold of it

And mark it with signs for its remembrance.

It is a river, this language,

Once in a thousand years

Breaking a new course

Changing its way to the ocean.

It is mountain effluvia

Moving to valleys

And from nation to nation

Crossing borders and mixing.

Languages die like rivers.

Words wrapped round your tongue today

And broken to shape of thought

Between your teeth and lips speaking

Now and today

Shall be faded hieroglyphics

Ten thousand years from now.

Sing -- and singing -- remember

Your song dies and changes

And is not here tomorrow

Any more than the wind

Blowing ten thousand years ago.

Sandburg's Books for Children


Rootabaga Stories (1922)

Rootabaga Pigeons (1923)

Rootabaga Country (1929)

Potato Face (1930).


Early Moon (1930)

Wind Song (1960

Snatch of Sliphorn Jazz

by Carl Sandburg

Are you happy? It's the only

way to be, kid.

Yes, be happy, it's a good nice

way to be.

But not happy-happy, kid, don't

be too doubled-up doggone happy.

It's the doubled-up doggone happy-

happy people . . . bust hard . . . they

do bust hard . . . when they bust.

Be happy, kid, go to it, but not too

doggone happy.

Pool of Bethesda

by Carl Sandburg

A man came to the pool of Bethesda

and sat down for his thoughts.

The light of the sun ran through the line

of the water and struck where the moss on

a stone was green --

The green of the moss wove into the sun silver

and the silent brackets of seven prisms added

to the pool of Bethesda --

Thus a man sat long with a pool and its prisms.

Poetry is the opening and closing

of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about

what is seen during the moment.

~ Carl Sandburg ~

Poetry for Young People

Poetry for Young People: Carl Sandburg
Poetry for Young People: Carl Sandburg

Following its treatment of Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson, Sterling adds two more titles on American masters to the Poetry for Young People series: Carl Sandburg. Each poem is accompanied by definitions of difficult words (Pulisher's Weekly)

Nothing short of breathtaking. (Parents Magazine)


Carl Sandburg

Carl Sandburg
Carl Sandburg

Works Published by Carl Sandburg

from Wikipedia

* In Reckless Ecstasy (1904) (poetry) (originally published as Charles Sandburg)

* Abe Lincoln Grows Up (N/A)

* Incidentals (1904) (poetry and prose) (originally published as Charles Sandburg)

* Plaint of a Rose (1908) (poetry) (originally published as Charles Sandburg)

* Joseffy (1910) (prose) (originally published as Charles Sandburg)

* You and Your Job (1910) (prose) (originally published as Charles Sandburg)

* Chicago Poems (1916) (poetry)

* Cornhuskers (1918) (poetry)

* Chicago Race Riots (1919) (prose) (with an introduction by Walter Lippmann)

* Clarence Darrow of Chicago (1919) (prose)

* Smoke and Steel (1920) (poetry)

* Rootabaga Stories (1922) (children's stories)

* Slabs of the Sunburnt West (1922) (poetry)

* Rootabaga Pigeons (1923) (children's stories)

* Selected Poems (1926) (poetry)

* Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years (1926) (biography)

* The American Songbag (1927) (folk songs) online

* Songs of America (1927) (folk songs) (collected by Sandburg; edited by Alfred V. Frankenstein)

* Abe Lincoln Grows Up (1928) (biography [primarily for children])

* Good Morning, America (1928) (poetry)

* Steichen the Photographer (1929) (history)

* Early Moon (1930) (poetry)

* Potato Face (1930) (children's stories)

* Mary Lincoln: Wife and Widow (1932) (biography)

* The People, Yes (1936) (poetry)

* Abraham Lincoln: The War Years (1939) (biography)

* Storm over the Land (1942) (biography) (excerpts from Sandburg's own Abraham Lincoln: The War Years)

* Road to Victory (1942) (exhibition catalog) (text by Sandburg; images compiled by Edward Steichen and published by the Museum of Modern Art)

* Home Front Memo (1943) (essays)

* Remembrance Rock (1948) (novel)

* Lincoln Collector: the story of the Oliver R. Barrett Lincoln collection (1949) (prose)

* The New American Songbag (1950) (folk songs)

* Complete Poems (1950) (poetry)

* The wedding procession of the rag doll and the broom handle and who was in it (1950) (children's story)

* Always the Young Strangers (1953) (autobiography)

* Selected poems of Carl Sandburg (1954) (poetry) (edited by Rebecca West)

* The Family of Man (1955) (exhibition catalog) (introduction; images compiled by Edward Steichen)

* Prairie-town boy (1955) (autobiography) (essentially excerpts from Always the Young Strangers)

* Sandburg Range (1957) (prose and poetry)

* Harvest Poems, 1910-1960 (1960) (poetry)

* Wind Song (1960) (poetry)

* Honey and Salt (1963) (poetry)

* The Letters of Carl Sandburg (1968) (autobiographical/correspondence) (edited by Herbert Mitgang)

* Breathing Tokens (poetry by Sandburg, edited by Margaret Sandburg) (1978) (poetry)

* Ever the Winds of Chance (1983) (autobiography) (started by Sandburg, completed by Margaret Sandburg and George Hendrick)

* Carl Sandburg at the movies : a poet in the silent era, 1920-1927 (1985) (selections of his reviews of silent movies - collected and edited by Dale Fetherling and Doug Fetherling)

* Billy Sunday and other poems (1993) (edited with an introduction by George Hendrick and Willene Hendrick)

* Poems for children nowhere near old enough to vote (1999) (compiled and with an introduction by George and Willene Hendrick)

* Abraham Lincoln : the prairie years and the war years (2007) (illustrated edition with an introduction by Alan Axelrod)

Do you like Sandburg's poetry? - or other comments

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    • WildFacesGallery profile image


      8 years ago from Iowa

      Really interesting lens. :)


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