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Dust -- Carl Sandburg

(Poem #163) Dust
 Here is dust remembers it was a rose
 one time and lay in a woman's hair.
 Here is dust remembers it was a woman
 one time and in her hair lay a rose.
 Oh things one time dust, what else now is it
 you dream and remember of old days?
-- Carl Sandburg
A quietly understated poem, very different from Sandburg's more famous
'Chicago'. It needs very little by way of explanation, but notice how the
second 'couplet', with a slight change of word order, suddenly establishes a
progression, throwing the whole into perspective against the larger scheme of
things (tm).

Finally, and in passing, the last two lines have a vaguely foreign feel to
them - nothing I can quite pin down, but they remind me of some translated
Asian or maybe African poetry, as though Sandburg were being deliberately
imitative of the 'profoundly simple' effect many such poems possess.



 Sandburg, Carl

 b. Jan. 6, 1878, Galesburg, Ill., U.S.
 d. July 22, 1967, Flat Rock, N.C. American poet, historian, novelist,
 and folklorist.

   From the age of 11, Sandburg worked in various occupations--as a
   barbershop porter, a milk truck driver, a brickyard hand, and a
   harvester in the Kansas wheat fields. When the Spanish-American War
   broke out in 1898, he enlisted in the 6th Illinois Infantry. These
   early years he later described in his autobiography Always the Young
   Strangers (1953).

   From 1910 to 1912 he acted as an organizer for the Social Democratic
   Party and secretary to the mayor of Milwaukee. Moving to Chicago in
   1913, he became an editor of System, a business magazine, and later
   joined the staff of the Chicago Daily News.

   In 1914 a group of his Chicago Poems appeared in Poetry magazine
   (issued in book form in 1916). In his most famous poem, "Chicago," he
   depicted the city as the laughing, lusty, heedless "Hog Butcher, Tool
   Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to
   the Nation." Sandburg's poetry made an instant and favourable
   impression. In Whitmanesque free verse, he eulogized workers:
   "Pittsburgh, Youngstown, Gary, they make their steel with men" (Smoke
   and Steel, 1920).

   In Good Morning, America (1928) Sandburg seemed to have lost some of
   his faith in democracy, but from the depths of the Great Depression he
   wrote a poetic testament to the power of the people to go forward, The
   People, Yes (1936). The folk songs he sang before delighted audiences
   were issued in two collections, The American Songbag (1927) and New
   American Songbag (1950). He wrote the popular biography Abraham
   Lincoln: The Prairie Years, 2 vol. (1926), and Abraham Lincoln: The
   War Years, 4 vol. (1939; Pulitzer Prize in history, 1940).

   Another biography, Steichen the Photographer, the life of his famous
   brother-in-law, Edward Steichen, appeared in 1929. In 1948 Sandburg
   published a long novel, Remembrance Rock, which recapitulates the
   American experience from Plymouth Rock to World War II. Complete Poems
   appeared in 1950. He wrote four books for children--Rootabaga Stories
   (1922); Rootabaga Pigeons (1923); Rootabaga Country (1929); and Potato
   Face (1930).
                -- EB

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