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Poet 4: Carl Sandburg

Carl Sandburg was born in Galeburg, Illinois in 1878. He was the son of Swedish immigrants, and I am the granddaughter of Swedish immigrant who immigrated to Illinois too. He was a Hobo at 19 years of age. He was in the Spanish-American War at the age of 20. He was a social democrat and was concerned for the plight of the American worker, and many of his poems reflect that.

His poems were powerful and accessible and packed a punch, especially "Planked Whitefish" (Gives you an idea of what he thought of war). I loved "Working Girls" because I imagined my Swedish immigrant grandmother going to work in Chicago in the 1920's. Here is a picture of them in Chicago when they were first married (1926)

WORKING GIRLS

THE working girls in the morning are going to work--
long lines of them afoot amid the downtown stores
and factories, thousands with little brick-shaped
lunches wrapped in newspapers under their arms.
Each morning as I move through this river of young-
woman life I feel a wonder about where it is all
going, so many with a peach bloom of young years
on them and laughter of red lips and memories in
their eyes of dances the night before and plays and
walks.
Green and gray streams run side by side in a river and
so here are always the others, those who have been
over the way, the women who know each one the
end of life's gamble for her, the meaning and the
clew, the how and the why of the dances and the
arms that passed around their waists and the fingers
that played in their hair.
Faces go by written over: "I know it all, I know where
the bloom and the laughter go and I have memories,"
and the feet of these move slower and they
have wisdom where the others have beauty.
So the green and the gray move in the early morning
on the downtown streets.


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