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"There is a place for me somewhere, where I can
write and speak as much as I can think, and make it
pay for my living and some besides," he declared in his
youth. "Just where this place is I have a small idea now, but I'm going to find
Sandburg's Mountain OasisCarl Sandburg, the people's poet, settled into Connemara, the 264-acre farm, and it was here in this North Carolina mountain paradise that Sandburg found the stillness he sought all his
Carl August Sandburg (6 Jan. 1878-22 July 1967), the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and historian, musician, and social activist, was born the second of seven children in Galesburg, Illinois. He was the son of Swedish immigrants August, a railroad blacksmith's helper and Clara Sandburg. After dropping out of public school after completing 8th grade, he held various odd jobs and ended up travelling as a hobo throughout 1897, dubbing himself "the eternal hobo." In 1898, the Spanish-American War began and Sandburg enlisted in the military. He was stationed in Puerto Rico for the duration of his service. When he returned, he enrolled in Lombard College. Despite his lack of a high school diploma, his veteran status qualified him for attendance at the College for free. His experiences at Lombard College largely shaped his socialist political leanings which led him to become involved in the Wisconsin Social Democratic party. At the party's headquarters, Sandburg met Lilian Steichen, whom he married in 1908 after a six month correspondence through intimate letters and only two meetings.
In 1916, Sandburg published one of his most famous works, Chicago Poems, which helped launch him into the international literary spotlight. Several years later, following the advice of his publisher, he wrote a multi-volume biography on the life of Abraham Lincoln. One of these volumes earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1940. In 1945, he, his wife, and three children relocated to the NC mountains, where he finalized and published a collection of his works which earned him his third Pulitzer Prize in 1951. He died at age 89 in his mountain home in 1967. His wife left nearly all his possessions to the American people, "the ones her husband spoke to in his writing, and, more often, spoke for."
Star-eyed girl of the heart that knowsWhere did you come by your eyes that see?Where did you get your heart that knows?
What passing ghost of silver breathBlew on your hair that breath of white?
You tell me of dreams, sea-tinted, sky-fashioned,You pour out sweet thoughts like baskets of flowers,You scatter me whimsies, wide-handedly tossing.Tree-top anthems, smell of the rain, and shy wood-blooms,The wind that goes winding the sunset trail,The mud and the bugs, the red spring wonders,You know them all and you pass them along!
Where did you come from?Where are you going?And what are you going to do when you get there.
Carl and Lilian's marriage was and always had been a world unto itself. After meeting they corresponded through letters which essentially tell a love story in a language often poetic and passionate. During this six-month period, Carl and Lilian were together only twice, and it was through the written word that they became intimately acquainted.In the code of their romance "Charles" became "Carl" and "Lilian" became "Paula," names the couple believed sounded more relaxed to the American ear. Their intimate relationship inspired many of Sandburg's works.
Carl Sandburg moved to Asheville, NC in 1945 after purchasing a large farm called Connemara and spent the last 22 years of his life there. Sandburg never regretted the move, noting later that the family, "didn't just buy two-hundred and forty-five acres when we bought Connemara, we bought a millions acres of sky, too." It was here he composed nearly third of his life's work and received his third Pulitzer prize. Sandburg was inspired by the nature and beauty surrounding the estate, which gave him the freedom to structure his days how ever he saw fit. He withdrew as much as possible from the national spotlight and guarded his solitude carefully at Connemara. He called his loneliness "the creative hush." "Two" describes how Lilian, or "Paula," would come into the house, covered in the flowers and morning dew that she was working with.
The poem "June" is an example of his relationship with "Paula" and the mountains, and how he would often witness her working outside in the soil, while he sat on his giant rock in the backyard.
"Time is what we spend our lives with. If we are not careful we find others spending it for us. It is necessary now and then for a man
to go away by himself and experience loneliness, and to sit on a rock in the forest and ask himself, 'Who am I, and where have I been, and where am I going?'"
"Two"Memory of you is ... a blue spear of flower.
I cannot remember the name of it.Alongside a bold dripping poppy is fire and silk.
And they cover you.
"June"Paula is digging and shaping the loam of a saliva.
Scarlet Chinese talker of summer.Two petals of crabapple blossom blow fallen in Paula's hair.
And fluff of white from a cottenwood.
I think I see why people like Carl Sandburg could seek respite in a place like this, his mountain home. After striving to give a voice to the unheard, disheartened masses, after channeling all the pain and frustration of the people…to be able to take in the overwhelming glory of a mountain rage, of this rocky outcrop and its view, must provide such comfort and hope, enough to rejuvenate and carry on. How can anyone look out at this place and not feel the comforting waves of a bigger picture wash over them? Individual despair fades to nothing when wrapped up in the glory of the bigger world, that all-encompassing story that we are but tiny players in. It offers courage, to know that you are part of something so much greater than your own efforts and worries. You are but a lone trumpet sounding out in a symphony of symphonies, and somehow this is hopeful. We fight our fights not alone but as part of a larger collective existence, a cause much greater than our own efforts. This endless mountain view offers focus, like a lens on a camera, reminding us of what matters and of what is ultimately true, reminding us of our humble smallness but also the value of our individual power in the big world. Carl Sandburg, “poet of the people”, surely must have known this and felt it deep down. Many people need a reminder of this perspective every so often, need to see that mountain range to be refreshed and to remember to keep going. But Sandburg must’ve had this sort of vision his whole life, to be able to advocate for others the way he did, to be so open to turbulent change and experience the way he was. In a sense, it’s symbolic that after a life of working for and understanding, whether consciously or unconsciously, that bigger picture and his role in it, Sandburg would come to a place that so perfectly embodies that paradoxical intermingling of tiny and immense. Sandburg’s poetry, the words of a single man, highlight the unique views of common individuals, yet manages to speak for all of those common, struggling people whose voices were muffled and drowned out in the shuffle of bustling industry, rising consumerism, and political power struggles. I am amazed that one man could witness and process all the pain of the people, and not be continually overwhelmed but continually built up, motivated to do something, to send a message with his writing. Sandburg must have had an inner strength akin to this powerful mountain range, an inner vision much like the one we can take in when looking out from the top of the mountain he called home at the end of his life. Sandburg shared with these North Carolina Mountains his beauty of vision and power of influence. Walking the trails of his home, his spirit seems present. Sandburg’s strength endures in this place.
Deborah's Reflection on Sandburg's Mountain Home
My ConnemaraI feel the breeze at the beach.I see the pine trees in the north.Both my homes have something great,But Connemara has it all.From Glassy Mountain overlook,To goat cheese on the farm,Connemara captures the essence of a perfect home.To live, to breathe, to write where Carl Sandburg stayed,I can say I understand why he chose this place to call his own.Its beauty is indescribable, truly an inspiration.Someday, I’ll find a Connemara of my own.
Cassidy's Reflection on Sandburg's Connemara
On a rock I sit,sit and write.On a rock he sat,sat and thought,sat and wrote,sat and inspired.The voice of the peoplehe put to the paper.One word at a timeone after another, after another, after another.The people’s poet he was.The eternal hobo he was.Hopping from train,to train,to train.Their pain was his pain.Their joy was his joy.He felt what they felt. He was America’s poet. 265 acres of land he hadand a million acres of sky too,under which he found his solitude.
On a rock her sat,sat and thought,sat and wrote,sat and inspired.On a rock I sit,sit and write,but my words they get stuck.And though I may try,I find my mind wandering. . . .questioningpondering“Where am I goingand why?”
Where are you from?Where do you hail?What is your origin?Where are you from?LA, they say. NY. Atlanta, Buffalo, Buxton.How do they know?I’ve been to the oceans,The waves still ebb.I’ve been to the mountains,The crags still crumble.I’ve been to the cities,The people are still in a hurry.But I still don’t know where I’m from.
To and From: Evan's Personal Reflection on Mr. Sandburg