The Spyglass, Views and Reviews, 1924-1930: Selected and Edited by John Tyree Fain

By Donald Davidson | Go to book overview

Carl Sandburg


Critic's Almanac December 2, 1928

Carl Sandburg Good Morning, America contains 162 poems written since 1922. It is regrettably necessary to say that there is little of the old Sandburg here. His vocabulary is as bold and diverse as ever; his imagination pours itself out profusely; there is always the interest of oddity and the interest of following a likable mind through ks varied play of sympathies, hopes, and fears. But except in the rather Whitmanian title poem, which is a lengthy examination of American phenomena, there is very little actual poetry. We cannot quite go along with Sandburg when he wistfully chants, "Frogs of the early spring, frogs of the later days." Sandburg may see and feel the essential poetry of the frog, but he does not get it across. Frequently, like the later Vachel Lindsay, he babbles puerilities-

Let me be your baby, south wind,
Rock me, let me rock, rock me now . . .
Comb my hair, west wind,
Comb me with a cow lick.

There is a great deal of this sort of thing. In short, there are mannerisms, fancies, odd philosophizings that have a verbal punch but very little else. One is led to think that Sandburg is, after all, a poetic-minded notionate, delightful fellow who is nevertheless not quiet a poet.

I may be wrong. But while I maintain considerable respect for Carl Sandburg's general performance, it seems to me that in this book Carl Sandburg's special idiom of expression has failed him as a medium, and I think it has failed him because all along it was a prose idiom and not a poetry idiom. It does immensely well in Rootabaga Stories, which are delightful nonsense in story form, and it reappears successfully, though a tempered form, in his

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