What I don’t know about Carl Sandburg

By MaryAnn

What I don’t know about Carl Sandburg would fill a whole library. Even though the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site  is within driving distance of my house, and even though I’m a North Carolina native, my knowledge of him is sorely lacking!

I’ve actually been to his historic homesite in Flat Rock twice in my whole life. Recently, my husband and I visited there for the  Sandburg Folk Music Festival, which was an all-day, free event! Connemara, the 262-acre farm, is available for visitors to explore and learn of this great American writer. The site consists of over five miles of trails, historic buildings, and a small representative goatherd. Tours of the main house are available daily from 9:30 am – 4:30 pm. The park is open daily except Christmas, according to the website.

Luckily, a search of the Fontana Regional Library catalog reveals a wide and varied selection of Sandburg’s works, including children’s stories, poems, nonfiction and fiction. Sandburg was a prolific writer, and there’s something for everyone in the library’s collection.

For children, or the child in all of us, take a look at Sandburg’s Rootabaga Stories. Here you’ll find such characters as the Potato Face Blind Man and the Blue Wind Boy. If you like these stories, you can enjoy More Rootabagas!

Maybe you’d prefer his juvenile poetry, such as Poems for Children: nowhere near old enough to voteRainbows are made, or  Arithmetic.

Carl Sandburg was born in Illinois in 1878. One of seven children in a poor, working-class, Swedish immigrant family, he left school at age 13. Sandburg worked a variety of odd jobs, then enlisted in the Sixth Infantry Regiment of the Illinois Volunteers during the Spanish-American War. As a veteran, he qualified for free tuition to Lombard College in his hometown of Galesburg, IL.  Although Sandburg never graduated from either high school or college, he developed a love for reading and writing poetry. and was published as a poet as early as 1904. His book Complete Poems (1950) won Sandburg the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. Sandburg was the Illinois poet laureate from 1962-1967, and  the publication of Honey and Salt (1963) garnered him the International United Poets Award as “Hon. Poet Laureate of the U.S.A.”

In 1945 the Sandburg and his family moved to Flat Rock, North Carolina. Sandburg’s wife had developed a herd of prizewinning goats that needed more room and a milder climate. The Asheville area was familiar to Mrs. Sandburg because her brother Edward Steichen had spent time there and recommended it as a place to investigate.

After Carl’s death in 1967, in accordance with his request,  Sandburg’s ashes were returned to his Galesburg, Illinois birthplace.

In 1968, the National Park Service became the stewards of the first historic site to honor an American poet when they acquired Connemara (named by the owners prior to the Sandburgs).

To read more about Sandburg, check out his autobiography, Always the Young Strangers, from your Fontana Regional Library.

3 thoughts on “What I don’t know about Carl Sandburg

  1. Here’s where my brain goes whenever anyone mentions “Carl Sandburg” — I was 13 when we visited Connemara. Decked out in white bell bottoms, I was rocking the Greg Brady look and desperately trying to impress a girl named Mandy from Florida.

    We managed to avoid the old people on the guided tour and I found that an adorable baby goat was strangely attracted to me.

    Hot dog! An attractive girl and irresistible cuddly animal, with me in the middle.

    It was a sweet plan until the goat tinkled on my pants. No one can feel humiliation like an adolescent.

    Mandy thought it was hysterical and went to find her older sister to tell her. I was able to hide out until it was time to leave that wretched farm.

    To this day, I haven’t been able to read Carl Sandburg.


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