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.

Anything But Poetry

By Loretta

I had determined I would not write about poetry again this year, even though National Poetry Month is coming up April 1st.  People hear it from me all the time, so I thought I would do something different, something fun.  I played around with a few ideas, some subjects I enjoy and hoped others might enjoy, too.  But, as much as I enjoy all those things, my mind kept wandering back to poetry.  It seems when I can’t get my head wrapped around anything else, I can always read poetry.  Old, contemporary, known, unknown : it doesn’t matter.

So here I am again, back at National Poetry Month.  Last year, I shared one poem with you, Patricia Goedicke’s Lost.  This year, I am going to share a song.  Yes, the music you listen to all day is poetry.  Some songwriters are considered by many to be great poets and have published books of their poems.  Leonard Cohen (whose music I don’t enjoy, but whose lyrics I love) has several books of poetry to his credit, including Stranger Music .  Jewel also published a book of her poetry called A Night Without Armor .  And there are many others. The poem I’ve chosen this year is from one of my favorite musicians, Marc Cohn.  The song title is Ellis Island.

I was driving down Ninth Avenue
As the sky was getting dark
Didn’t have nothin’ else to do
So I kept on riding to Battery Park
I stepped out in the damp and misty night
As the fog was rolling in
Man said, “Last boat leaving tonight
Is the boat for Ellis Island”

As my feet touched solid ground
I felt a chill run down my spine
I could almost hear the sound
of thousands pushing through the lines
Mothers and bewildered wives
that sailed across the raging sea
Others running for their lives
to the land of opportunity
Down on Ellis Island

“What is this strange paradise?”
They must’ve wondered through their cries and moans
After all they’ve sacrificed
Their faith, their families, friends and homes
Then on the Inspection Stairs
They were counted out or counted in
Frozen while the inspectors stared
Down on Ellis Island

Now me I only stumbled in
Just to wander around that empty hall
Where someone else’s fate had been
Decided in no time at all
And cases filled with hats and clothes
And the belongings of those who journeyed far
They’re strange reminders I suppose
Of where we’re from and who we are

But as the boat pulled off the shore
I could see the fog was lifting
And lights I never seen before
Were shining down on Ellis Island
Shining down on Ellis Island

Ellis Island

Unfortunately, Cohn doesn’t allow his music to wander about without a chaperone, so I can’t find a video of this one.  I wish you could hear it; it’s such a beautiful song.  (You can find it on his Burning the Daze album.)

When we think of poetry, we often forget that music is a large part of it, an everyday part.  So when you celebrate National Poetry Month, remember to celebrate your music!