Poet and historian Carl Sandburg (1878-1967), famous for his free-versed Chicago (1914) and Fog (1916), was born on this day in the prairie town of Galesburg, Illinois. His parents were Swedish immigrants and his father was a blacksmith's helper.
With this working-class background, he modestly described his creations as "simple poems...which continue to have an appeal for simple people."
Sandburg traveled west as a hobo, hopping trains and sleeping under the stars. He was a soldier, a dreamer, and a storyteller. He loved history and adventure. He explored and lived like the poems he wrote, in free verse.
The versatile writer won the 1940 Pulitzer Prize for the last of his six-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln and another for his Complete Poems (1950). The Lincoln biography was a monumental labor of love that took Sandburg 30 years to research and finish.
"All my life," Sandburg wrote, "I have been trying to learn to read, to see and hear, and to write."
Sandburg's poetry celebrated America-- in all her passionate colors-- her people, industries, and landscapes. "I glory in this world of men and women," he said, "torn with troubles, yet living on to love and laugh through it all."
Strongly influenced by the writings of Walt Whitman, Sandburg described poetry as "the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what is seen during a moment."
In a eulogy, President Lyndon Johnson said, "Carl Sandburg was more than the voice of America, more than the poet of its strength and genius, he was America. We knew and cherished him as the bard of democracy, the echo of the people, our conscience and chronicler of truth and beauty and purpose."
Soar... or wallow? Choose.