Under a Telephone Pole

This American poet was relatively unknown to the literary world until the nationally circulated Poetry magazine published a small group of his poems in 1914. Two years later his book Chicago Poems was published and Under a Telephone Pole was one of the poems that appeared in it. The collection of poetry's theme is about American socialism and the people on the bottom of the socialist pyramid; those who are proud to be the ones who are the "foundation" of the city. Using unrhymed free verse and techniques of imagism Chicago Poems established Sandburg's reputation as a realist concerned with industrialist themes. He once described, "Poetry is the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what is seen during a moment." His impressionistic style and colloquial vigor gained a wide appreciation among his audiences.

The thirty-eight-year-old author found himself on the brink of a career that would bring him international acclaim and the Pulitzer Prize in 1919 for Cornhuskers. A staunch supporter of the blue-collar worker his greatest talent lay in his ability to convey the hearty nature of America, finding both soft and harsh beauty amongst her people.

In 1876 Alexander Graham Bell was granted a patent for an electronic speaking telephone; he had discovered that only a steady electric current could be used to transmit the human voice over a copper wires. Four decades later the poet put together a few words and painted for us an earthy picture. How easy it is for one to picture utility poles strung with bight orange wires across Sandburg's "broad- shouldered" Chicago. With the arrival of long-distance telephone service in the second decade of the twentieth century an awestruck Carl Sandburg penned this celebratory poem about the promise of a technology that sougt that even then resonated human voices across the nation and around the world.

Here are some interesting tidbits. Movie producer Steven Spielberg based E.T.'s face on pictures of some famous mugs; those of Albert Einstein and none other than Carl Sandberg. And did you know Sandburg loved his goats. His wife was a world-famous goat breeder. When Life wanted him to pose for a picture with his favorite dog of a 1938 issue of the magazine, he insisted the picture be taken with his goats!

Although he endured a poverty stricken child hood that required him to go to work for the family soon after graduating from grammar school. Sandburg went on to become a member of the Academy of Arts and Letters and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964. The Untied States National Park Service preserves Connemara, the 245-acre farm in Flat Rock, NC, where the author and his family lived the last 22 years of his life. Carl Sandburg died on July 22, 1967.


Blair, Bob:

Bram, Robert Philips, Norma H. Dicky, "Sandburg,Carl," Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia , 1988.

Eastland Memorial Society:

Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner:

CST Approved.

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