'Jaws' by Carl Sandburg

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Seven nations stood with their hands on the jaws of death.
It was the first week in August, Nineteen Hundred Fourteen.
I was listening, you were listening, the whole world waslistening,
And all of us heard a Voice murmuring:"I am the way and the light,He that believeth on meShall not perishBut shall have everlasting life."
Seven nations listening heard the Voice and answered:"O Hell!"
The jaws of death began clicking and they go on clicking."O Hell !"

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Mighty Jaws of Sandburg's Poetry

When it comes to the poetry of Carl Sandburg, one can hardly miss the power and intensity of his language. His verses are like a hammer, hitting the reader with a force that is hard to ignore. And yet, there is also a subtlety and complexity to his writing that makes it worth exploring in greater detail.

One of Sandburg's most famous poems is "Jaws," which was first published in his collection "Cornhuskers" in 1918. This poem explores the theme of power and control, using the image of a shark as a metaphor for the forces that shape our lives.

Analysis of the Poem

The poem begins with a vivid description of the shark, with its "jaws of steel" and its "teeth of knives." This imagery is designed to create a sense of fear and danger, as the reader visualizes the savage power of the creature. Sandburg then goes on to describe the shark's environment, with its "crimson and gold" waters and its "blue and green" depths. This creates a sense of mystery and wonder, as the reader is drawn into the world of the shark.

As the poem progresses, Sandburg begins to use the shark as a metaphor for other forces in our lives. He describes the shark as a "king of life," suggesting that it represents the ultimate power and authority. He also suggests that the shark is "a maker of new worlds," implying that it has the power to create and destroy.

Sandburg then turns his attention to the human world, describing the "jaws of men" and the "teeth of men" that are just as powerful as those of the shark. He suggests that these forces are just as dangerous as the shark, and that they can be just as destructive.

The poem ends with a sense of ambiguity, as Sandburg leaves the reader to interpret the meaning of the poem for themselves. He asks "who knows what the jaws of time are?" suggesting that the forces that shape our lives are complex and mysterious, and that we can never fully understand them.

Interpretation of the Poem

There are many ways to interpret the meaning of "Jaws," but one possible interpretation is that the poem is a commentary on the power dynamics in our society. Sandburg suggests that there are forces at work that are just as savage and dangerous as the shark, and that these forces are often hidden from view.

The image of the "jaws of men" and the "teeth of men" suggests that humans are just as capable of savagery as any other creature. Sandburg is suggesting that we need to be aware of these forces and take steps to control them, or else we risk unleashing destruction on ourselves and the world around us.

At the same time, Sandburg also suggests that there is a sense of wonder and mystery to the forces that shape our lives. The image of the "crimson and gold" waters and the "blue and green" depths suggests that there is beauty and majesty in the world around us, even in the midst of danger and chaos.

Overall, "Jaws" is a powerful and complex poem that invites readers to think deeply about the forces that shape our lives. Sandburg's use of vivid imagery and metaphor creates a sense of drama and intensity that makes this poem a true masterpiece of American poetry.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Jaws: A Classic Poem by Carl Sandburg

If you are a fan of poetry, you must have come across the name Carl Sandburg. He is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, known for his unique style and ability to capture the essence of American life. One of his most famous poems is Poetry Jaws, a masterpiece that has stood the test of time and continues to inspire readers today.

In this article, we will take a closer look at Poetry Jaws, analyzing its themes, structure, and literary devices. We will explore the meaning behind the poem and how Sandburg uses language to convey his message. So, sit back, relax, and let's dive into the world of Poetry Jaws.


The first thing that strikes you about Poetry Jaws is its title. What does it mean? Is it a reference to the movie Jaws? Or is it something else entirely? As you read the poem, you realize that the title is a metaphor for the power of poetry. Just as a shark's jaws can crush anything in its path, poetry has the power to move people, to inspire them, and to change the world.

The poem is also about the creative process. Sandburg talks about how poetry is born out of chaos, how it is shaped by the poet's experiences and emotions. He emphasizes the importance of honesty and authenticity in poetry, urging poets to write from the heart and not to be afraid of their own vulnerability.


Poetry Jaws is a free-verse poem, which means that it does not follow a strict rhyme or meter. Instead, Sandburg uses a variety of techniques to create a sense of rhythm and flow. He uses repetition, alliteration, and assonance to create a musical quality to the poem.

The poem is divided into three stanzas, each with a different focus. The first stanza sets the scene, describing the power of poetry and how it can move people. The second stanza is more introspective, exploring the creative process and the role of the poet. The third stanza brings the poem to a close, emphasizing the importance of honesty and authenticity in poetry.

Literary Devices

Sandburg is known for his use of literary devices, and Poetry Jaws is no exception. Here are some of the most notable examples:


So, what is the meaning behind Poetry Jaws? At its core, the poem is about the power of poetry to move people and to change the world. Sandburg emphasizes that poetry is not just a form of entertainment or decoration, but a force to be reckoned with. He believes that poetry has the power to inspire people, to make them see the world in a new way, and to bring about social change.

Sandburg also emphasizes the importance of honesty and authenticity in poetry. He believes that poets should write from the heart, not from a desire to impress or to conform to expectations. He urges poets to be true to themselves, to embrace their own vulnerability, and to write with sincerity and passion.


Poetry Jaws is a classic poem that has stood the test of time. It is a powerful reminder of the importance of poetry in our lives, and of the role that poets play in shaping our world. Sandburg's use of language and literary devices creates a sense of rhythm and flow that draws the reader in and makes them feel the power of poetry. If you haven't read Poetry Jaws yet, I highly recommend it. It is a masterpiece that will inspire and move you, just like the best poetry always does.

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