Carl Sandburg

The Chicago Poet

“Here is the difference between Dante, Milton, and me. They wrote about hell and never saw the place. I wrote about Chicago after looking the town over for years and years.”

Biographical Information 1878 - 1967

  • Left school at 13 and had a series of menial jobs
  • Spent a year as a hobo at age 19
  • Fought in the Spanish American War
  • Went to college at Lombard, but left without taking a degree
  • "Rode the Rails" supported financially somewhat by giving an occasional lecture on Whitman or Lincoln
  • Wrote for small political journals and became a member of the Socialist Party
  • Journalist for the "Chicago Daily News"
  • Lived in Chicago from 1919-1930
  • Wrote poetry, children's books, and historical pieces including a 2 volume work on Abraham Lincoln

Selected Works of Poetry

  • 1916 Chicago Poems
  • 1918 Cornhuskers
  • 1920 Smoke and Steel
  • 1928 Good Morning, America
  • 1936 The People, Yes,

Common Style of his Poetry

  • Free Verse
  • Use of "Simple" language
  • Imagist
  • Use of the "American language"
  • Influenced by Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rudyard Kipling, and Robert Browning

Common Topics of his Poetry

  • Portraits of working class people in America
  • Industrialization and Commercialism
  • Race
  • Anti-War

Awards and Legacy

  • 1919 Pulitzer Prize for Cornhuskers
  • 1940 Pulitzer Prize in History for The War Years, his 2nd volume on Lincoln
  • 1951 Pulitzer Prize for Complete Poems
  • 1959 Addressed Congress on the commemoration of Lincoln's birth, to this day the only poet ever invited by Congress to make an address
  • 1964 Received The Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • 1965 First white person to be honored with a lifetime achievement award by the NAACP

"Carl Sandburg was more than the voice of America, more than the poet of its strength and genius. He was America." - Lyndon B. Johnson

Further Reading

Works Cited

Durnell, Hazel. The America of Carl Sandburg. Washington D.C. : The U.P. of Washington D.C., 1965. Print.

MacLeish, Archibald. The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg. New York City: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970. Print

Niven, Penelope. "Carl Sandburg's Life" Modern American Poetry. n.p., Feb. 2000. Web. 16 Mar. 2015.

Sandburg, Carl. Selected Poems. San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1996.