Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The People Yes...

     Carl Sandburg's "The People Yes" is an interesting poem to read alongside Whitman.  Mencken, a noted journalist, famously referred to Sandburg as "indubitably and American in every pulse-beat."  I would agree that the tone of his poetry has clear American roots behind it down to the title addressing the subject of "the people."  Sandburg's voice was one out of the Depression and I think that this poem successfully voices the state of the everyman at that time.  
     There are definitely similarities in the poetic qualities of Sandburg and Whitman however one very noticeable difference is the voice that each poet takes in these pieces.  Whitman writes with a continuing first person point of view, however this character does move from a more literal being to a more abstract higher-being at times.  Sandburg, on the other hand, writes with a more omniscient third person speaker and reads as someone who seems to be representative of all the people as a whole as opposed to one person relaying ideas to everyone else.  I looked at a particular section of Sandburg's poem with the concluding segment from "Song of Myself."  Here are some instances that parallel in thematic issues and tone, and lines that I thought were particularly strong from each:

The People Yes...
     - The people will live on...You can't laugh off their capacity to take it.
     - The people is a tragic and comic two face.
     - This reaching is alive.
     - Man is a long time coming. Man will yet win.
     - Who can live without hope? Where to? What next?

Song of Myself...
     - It is not chaos or death-it is form, union, plan-it is eternal life-it is Happiness
     - (I am large, I contain multitudes.)
     - I too am not a but tamed, I too am untranslatable.
     - Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged...I stop somewhere waiting for you.

     Both poets address the theme of the form, the union and the plan.  In Sandburg's poem, he quotes the everyman stating that he has to work to make a living and this work fills all of his time, leaving no time to observe the rest of things.  He conveys the idea that we are constantly working and trying and reaching for the next thing to take us forward.  His poem has movement to it.  The union factors in as he refers to "the people" as a single being existing as one, as Man.  Whitman discusses the same themes in his piece however his voice is one of a rebel, someone who exists with the people but also exists as the individual, someone who cannot be tamed or predicted, someone the people could perhaps be reaching for.

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