Monday, January 6, 2014

Carl Sandburg: Fanfare For The Birthday Of A Common Man

Today is the birthday of the American lecturer, journalist, poet, biographer, editor and folk singer, Carl Sandburg. He remains my favorite American socialist. Those of us who had a childhood in the 1950s grew up knowing Sandburg rather well as he enjoyed near iconic status as a literary figure. By 1950, his most significant work had already appeared but he maintained a busy working retirement at his farm, Connemara, located in western North Carolina, where he produced about one-third of his total literary output. 

Carl Sandburg, 1955                         Library of Congress Photo

Sandburg was widely known as the voice of the American people, especially the working men and women who built a new and prosperous nation out of dreams and sweat. In spite of his popularity, he was a family man at heart who loved the warmth and activities associated with his close-knit family consisting of his wife, Lillian Steichen Sandburg and their three children and their families. 

Here is Sandburg reading, The People, Yes, one of his most beloved poems. I find the video recreation of the poet's face to be a distraction, but the reading is electrifying.

There is much more on Sandburg and his family at the National Park Service website for Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site. Over the course of my career I had the pleasure of working several months with the staff and resources at this historic site. In fact, I was offered the opportunity to manage the place in the mid 90's. As time and fate would have it, my only direct association with Lillian and Carl Sandburg at Connemara will remain my late father-in-law's goat trading with them and their award-winning herd of Chikaming dairy goats.  

If you decide to read one biography, make it Penelope Niven's Carl Sandburg: A Biography (1991). Most enjoyable. 

The book store at the historic site has sold some fine goat milk cheese in the past. Remember to ask the staff if it's still available next time you visit.

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