Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sweet Home Chicago or Hog Butcher for the World

Just got home from four days in Chicago for some educational technology training. The city of Chicago fascinates me and just might be my favorite city in the country. (Sorry, Vegas).  It's not without faults, of course (I can't lie, I loathe the Cubs and all their die hard fanatics), but it's a fascinating and exciting place.

I was there last summer for a month-long seminar about teaching poetry, which was when I started truly enjoying reading poetry for the first time in my life. So maybe that's the connection--maybe that's why I like it so much there. There are certainly millions of poems hiding in those crowded city streets. Every time I go back, I discover new ones.

Who knows if I'll end up back there again someday, or for how long of a time (I certainly ate enough hot dogs this time to sustain me for a good few years), but when I do I know new poems will be there waiting for me to read and to write.

What better to share than two Carl Sandburg poems after returning from the place where he wrote some of his most famous poetry?

The Road and the End

I shall foot it
Down the roadway in the dusk,
Where shapes of hunger wander
And the fugitives of pain go by.

I shall foot it
In the silence of the morning,
See the night slur into dawn,
Hear the slow great winds arise
Where tall trees flank the way
And shoulder toward the sky.

The broken boulders by the road
Shall not commemorate my ruin.
Regret shall be the gravel under foot.
I shall watch for
Slim birds swift of wing
That go where wind and ranks of thunder
Drive the wild processionals of rain.

The dust of the travelled road
Shall touch my hands and face.


THERE are no handles upon a language
Whereby men take hold of it
And mark it with signs for its remembrance.
It is a river, this language,
Once in a thousand years
Breaking a new course
Changing its way to the ocean.
It is mountain effluvia
Moving to valleys
And from nation to nation
Crossing borders and mixing.
Languages die like rivers.
Words wrapped round your tongue today
And broken to shape of thought
Between your teeth and lips speaking
Now and today
Shall be faded hieroglyphics
Ten thousand years from now.
Sing—and singing—remember
Your song dies and changes
And is not here to-morrow
Any more than the wind
Blowing ten thousand years ago.

I am not sure which one I like best, I just know I like his use of free verse and metaphor, not to mention the
use of a great word like "effluvia." Finally, for all you fellow classroom teachers out there, I can't talk about
Sandburg without mentioning that one of my all-time favorite poems to use with young students will always
be "Fog." 

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