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Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Dr. Samuel J. Sackett
In the earlier twentieth century the tumult of industrial America was vividly expressed through Sandburg’s imagistic technique and his use of American slang. But he was not successful enough in bringing his poetic imagery into focus amid the chaos of newly developing America. Almost all his early poems were colored by a pessimistic tone, and his technique showed its greatest effect in short, melancholy lyrics. His early poetic manner is based on a sensuous response to the mechanism of modern society, a response which is defined as impressionism in this thesis. But later, in an attempt to overcome his pessimism, Sandburg searched for a new image of the American people and their native ground in the folk tradition. In spite of this search of “folklorism” his poetic focus became even more vague amid the heterogeneous American folk materials. All he could find was dim shadows or silhouettes of the people who built a new county on the prairie through their inexpressible hardships. Moreover, the skeptical tone never disappeared from his poetry, even in his affirmative attempt in The People, Yes. In this sense, his early impressionism and later folklorism are firmly connected with each other. His main weakness lies in his insistence upon a so-called Americanism separated from the long historical tradition of European civilization. Despite this unsatisfactory result, however, his efforts to keep poetry close to the American scene, land, and people must be evaluated highly in sharp contrast with the aesthetic poets who turned away from the people in order to devote themselves to the technical refinement of their poetry. Although nowadays America has to a great extent passed out of the turmoil in which Sandburg had nourished his poetic faculty, one cannot reject him as a poet of the past. His efforts are suggestive at least of one phase of American civilization, which had been founded on the heterogeneous elements of European tradition, and eventually of the homogeneity which America has been attempting to achieve.
Copyright 1963 Tetsuji Akasofu
Akasofu, Tetsuji, "A Study of Carl Sandburg's Poetry : His Early Impressionism and Later Folklorism" (1963). Master's Theses. 811.