Carl Sandburg’s Poetry and Songs

Smith Hall, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, 2011. "Here I saw a city rise and say to the peoples round the world - Listen, I am strong, I know what I want." ~ Carl Sandburg, Prairie

"Chicago has something over and beyond. - Sometime the seeds of cross-fertilizations now moving in Chicago may inaugurate a crossroads of great gladness." ~ Carl Sandburg, The People, Yes

Sandburg was from Illinois and was fascinated by Chicago lifestyle, especially the blue-collar workers, working women, and musicians and their stories. Early in Sandburg’s life he had the sense he was moving forward to some unknown as a writer.  He needed to learn how to tell a story.  He learned this for the stories from  his hobo days, 1897. “I was meeting fellow travelers and fellow Americans.  What they were doing to my heart and mind, my personality, I couldn’t say then or later and be certain.” ~ Carl Sandburg,” Always the Young Strangers”

We see this storytelling as a major focus of this Sandburg performance in Illinois and his first collection of poems,  “Chicago Poems” in Poetry Magazine-1914.  Working with local musicians and poets – the Illinois Poet Laureate and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign faculty – gave an authenticity to the program and highlighted Sandburg’s poems about city men and women and their work.  Produced by Kate Benzel, this performance, focuses on his Chicago Poems and blues songs from his American Songbag-1927.

“Laughing the stormy husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be a Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.” ~ Carl Sandburg, “Chicago”

Music Director was Mike Adams and Chuck Peek was emcee and reader. Other musicians include Terry Sinnard – bass, Robin Kearton – viola, Chris Reyman – accordian. Poets include Illinois Poet Laureate Kevin Stein, and Janice Harrington from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign



The following audio recording from this 2011 performance. Rising Sun Blues.

Categories: Literature, Music