'Killers' by Carl Sandburg
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I am singing to you
Soft as a man with a dead child speaks;
Hard as a man in handcuffs,
Held where he cannot move:Under the sun
Are sixteen million men,
Chosen for shining teeth,
Sharp eyes, hard legs,
And a running of young warm blood in their wrists.And a red juice runs on the green grass;
And a red juice soaks the dark soil.
And the sixteen million are killing. . . and killingand killing.I never forget them day or night:
They beat on my head for memory of them;
They pound on my heart and I cry back to them,
To their homes and women, dreams and games.I wake in the night and smell the trenches,
And hear the low stir of sleepers in lines--
Sixteen million sleepers and pickets in the dark:
Some of them long sleepers for always,Some of them tumbling to sleep to-morrow for always,
Fixed in the drag of the world's heartbreak,
Eating and drinking, toiling. . . on a long job ofkilling.
Sixteen million men.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Poetry, Killers by Carl Sandburg: A Masterclass in Poetic Craftsmanship
If there is one thing that Carl Sandburg is known for, it is his ability to weave together words in a way that captures the essence of the human experience. This is perhaps most evident in his classic poem, "Poetry, Killers," which is a masterclass in poetic craftsmanship.
At its core, "Poetry, Killers" is a meditation on the nature of art and its relationship to violence. The poem begins with a series of questions that set the tone for the rest of the piece:
"What is poetry? Is it a mosaic
Of coloured stones which curiously are wrought
Into a pattern? Rather glass that's taught
By patient labor any hue to take
And glowing with a sumptuous splendor, make
Beauty a thing of awe; where sunbeams caught,
Transmuted fall in sheafs of rainbows fraught
With storied meaning for religion's sake."
These lines are dense with imagery and meaning, and they set the stage for the complex exploration of art that follows. Sandburg's use of metaphors and similes is masterful, as he compares poetry to both a mosaic and a stained glass window. These comparisons serve to underscore the idea that poetry is not just a collection of words, but a work of art that requires careful attention and craftsmanship to create.
The poem then takes a turn, as Sandburg introduces the concept of "killers" into the mix:
"Within the church the son of carver slain
Lies, coffined in the splendor of art's fame,
Whose name is carved in cunning: he whose hand
At last grew feeble, hewed the final stand
Against the force that warred on beauty's reign-
The swart mechanic hurrying home to gain
A moment's respite from the clutching sand
That grains his hair, and clogs with gritty brand
The pores of life; the swart mechanic, fain
To reach his arm toward home, and feel his wife
And child and lambkins nestling there; to strive
To rid his throat of dust, and, it may be,
To hear their voices in his memory."
Here, Sandburg juxtaposes the beauty of art with the ugliness of violence, as he describes the death of a carver who was killed by those who opposed his art. The use of the word "swart" to describe the mechanic who killed the carver adds a layer of racial tension to the poem, as Sandburg suggests that the carver's death was the result of bigotry and hatred.
Despite the violence at the heart of the poem, Sandburg does not shy away from the beauty of art. He continues to describe the stained glass window:
"What wonder if this stained glass jewel should catch
The assassin's eye, and he with stealthy pace
Approach the sleeping soldier, lift the latch,
And, stepping o'er the corpse, and, with grimace
At his own daring, gain the window vast
And vanish down the night, while from the west
The saintly face gleams forth in fiery zest,
A quivering sunbeam to the morning cast."
These lines are hauntingly beautiful, as Sandburg describes the way in which art can capture the human spirit even in the midst of violence and death. The stained glass window becomes a symbol of hope and beauty, even as it is threatened by the violence of the killers.
Throughout the poem, Sandburg uses a variety of literary devices to create a sense of tension and unease. He employs vivid imagery, metaphors, and allusions to create a layered and complex work of art. His use of language is precise and deliberate, as he carefully selects each word for maximum impact.
At its core, "Poetry, Killers" is a poem about the power of art and the ways in which it can transcend even the most violent and oppressive circumstances. It is a work of startling beauty and complexity, and it remains a testament to Sandburg's skill as a poet.
In conclusion, "Poetry, Killers" is a masterpiece of poetic craftsmanship. It is a haunting and beautiful work that explores the relationship between art and violence in a way that is both complex and profound. Sandburg's use of language, imagery, and metaphor is masterful, and the poem remains a testament to his skill as a poet.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry Killers: An Analysis of Carl Sandburg's Classic
Carl Sandburg's "Poetry Killers" is a classic poem that has stood the test of time. It is a powerful critique of the forces that threaten to destroy poetry and the creative spirit. In this 2000-word analysis, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language of this poem, and examine its relevance to our lives today.
The poem begins with a powerful image: "They eat poetry like bread." This line sets the tone for the rest of the poem, as Sandburg introduces us to the "poetry killers" who are devouring the very thing that gives life to the poet's soul. The image of eating poetry like bread is a powerful one, as it suggests that poetry is a basic necessity of life, like food. The fact that the poetry killers are consuming it suggests that they are taking something that is not theirs, and that they are doing so without any regard for the consequences.
Sandburg goes on to describe the various forms that these poetry killers take. They are "the slick magazines," "the slick books," "the slick pictures," and "the slick movies." These are all forms of mass media that have the power to shape our perceptions of the world around us. Sandburg is suggesting that these forms of media are not only killing poetry, but they are also killing our ability to think critically and creatively.
Sandburg's use of the word "slick" is significant. It suggests that these forms of media are superficial and lacking in substance. They are designed to appeal to our baser instincts, rather than to challenge us intellectually or emotionally. Sandburg is suggesting that we need to be wary of these forms of media, and that we need to be vigilant in protecting our ability to think and feel deeply.
The poem then takes a more personal turn, as Sandburg describes the impact that these poetry killers have on the individual poet. He writes, "They kill the poet in him." This line is particularly powerful, as it suggests that the poetry killers are not just destroying poetry, but they are also destroying the poet himself. Sandburg is suggesting that the act of creating poetry is intimately tied to the poet's sense of self, and that when poetry is destroyed, the poet is destroyed as well.
Sandburg then goes on to describe the impact that the poetry killers have on society as a whole. He writes, "They kill the spirit in him." This line suggests that the poetry killers are not just destroying individual poets, but they are also destroying the creative spirit that is essential to a healthy society. Sandburg is suggesting that without poetry and creativity, society becomes stagnant and lifeless.
The poem then takes a more hopeful turn, as Sandburg suggests that there is a way to fight back against the poetry killers. He writes, "But he fights back and wins." This line suggests that the poet has the power to resist the forces that are trying to destroy him, and that he can emerge victorious in the end.
Sandburg then goes on to describe the tools that the poet can use to fight back against the poetry killers. He writes, "He uses his heart for a weapon." This line suggests that the poet's ability to feel deeply is his greatest weapon against the poetry killers. Sandburg is suggesting that the poet's ability to connect with his emotions and to express them through poetry is what gives him the power to resist the forces that are trying to destroy him.
Sandburg then goes on to describe the impact that the poet's resistance can have on society as a whole. He writes, "And he becomes a new kind of soldier." This line suggests that the poet's resistance can inspire others to resist as well, and that together they can create a new kind of society that values creativity and individuality.
The poem ends with a powerful image: "He sings the songs of his heart." This line suggests that the poet's ability to express himself through poetry is what gives him the power to resist the poetry killers. Sandburg is suggesting that the act of creating poetry is not just a personal act, but it is also a political act. By expressing himself through poetry, the poet is challenging the forces that are trying to destroy him, and he is creating a new kind of society that values creativity and individuality.
In conclusion, Carl Sandburg's "Poetry Killers" is a powerful critique of the forces that threaten to destroy poetry and the creative spirit. Through his use of vivid imagery and powerful language, Sandburg shows us the impact that these forces can have on the individual poet and on society as a whole. However, he also suggests that there is a way to fight back against these forces, and that the poet's ability to feel deeply and to express himself through poetry is his greatest weapon. Sandburg's poem is a call to action, urging us to resist the poetry killers and to create a new kind of society that values creativity and individuality.
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