The purpose of this study is to investigate one of the most important – and at the same time neglected – personalities of 20th century American literature, Carl Sandburg, through the analysis of his first and most influential poetical work, Chicago Poems (1916).
Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) was among the most famous and celebrated poets of his age. After gaining widespread recognition in 1916 with his first book of poems, the socially and politically committed Chicago Poems, he probably reached the peak of his popularity in the mid-1950's: he was loved by the people, acclaimed by the critics and honoured by the highest authorities. In 1951 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for the third time for his Complete Poems: he had received the other two prizes in 1919 for his collection Cornhuskers, and in 1940 for the second volume of his monumental biography of Abraham Lincoln. By the mid-1960's, schools of any order and degree were named after him; he had received degrees honoris causa from all the most prestigious American universities; he was awarded honorary titles by many important institutions of the most varied kind and political orientation such as civil rights organizations and the Chamber of Commerce. He was even asked to stand as candidate for President, at different times, both by the Republicans and by the Democrats and, to date, he is the only American writer – and one of the very few private citizens – ever invited to give an address before the joint session of Congress (it happened on the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Lincoln's birth in 1959). Carl Sandburg, in other words, was a living legend, a sort of walking monument and, in fact, both the house where he was born and the house where he died, on July the 22nd, 1967, later became national monuments and today are still preserved as historic sites. When Sandburg died, national mourning was proclaimed and, in September, a majestic service was held in his honour at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington in the presence of President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Today Carl Sandburg still holds a prominent position in the history of American culture. His poetry, however, is neglected and almost ignored by academic scholars. If a collection like Chicago Poems is still widely known and read – at least in the United States – Sandburg's critical reputation underwent a process of rapid deterioration. In many recent histories of American literature Sandburg is simply dismissed as a minor epigone of Walt Whitman. Trying to discover why and how this happened is one of the reasons behind this study: how could it happen that a poet, celebrated and honoured as a national institution during his lifetime, was so quickly put aside and forgotten after his death?
In my opinion, there are three main reasons: in the first place, the progressive establishing of new critical trends which redefined the nature and functions of modern poetry; the second reason is mainly historical and it is related to a change in social and political conditions; finally – since I don't want, by all means, to imply that there was a sort of critical conspiracy against Sandburg –, an objective decline of his poetry after the Thirties, together with the weakening of its revolutionary message.
Sandburg published his best poetical works between 1916 and 1920 (Chicago Poems, Cornhuskers, Smoke and Steel), after which he addressed himself to many disparate projects: fairy tales (Rootabaga Stories, 1922); folk music (The American Songbag, 1927) and biography. Publications of poetry became less and less frequent, the only significant works being Good Morning America (1928) and the long poem The People, Yes (1936).
At the end of the Thirties, the so-called New Criticism was becoming established as the pre-eminent critical school, one which would be dominant in the next twenty years. The New Critics recommended total focus on the text, through close reading, deliberately
|Titolo tradotto del contributo||[Autom. eng. transl.] I Am the People. Carl Sandburg e i Chicago Poems|
|Numero di pagine||272|
|Stato di pubblicazione||Pubblicato - 2015|
|Nome||STUDI E TESTI DI PALAZZO SERRA|
- CARL SANDBURG
- CHICAGO POEMS