Poetry Review: “The South Wind Says So” by Carl Sandburg

Rememberance Rock

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Some long-time readers of MontanaWriter may remember that last summer, coming home from a family vacation in The Smoky Mountains, Sue and I visited Carl Sandburg’s birthplace in Galesburg, Illinois. Moved by the experience I purchased a volume of Sandburg’s complete poems the following week.

A year later, Sandburg continues to delight me. The more I read, the more I am certain that he is the most overlooked American poet of the 20th Century.

It has been awhile since I reviewed a Sandburg poem here. Sandburg has been on my mind again and so I post this one, “The South Wind Says So.” It is from his third collection of poetry, Smoke and Steel.

Enjoy!

 

The South Wind Says So
If the oriole calls like last year
when the south wind sings in the oats,
if the leaves climb and climb on a bean pole
saying over a song learnt from the south wind,
if the crickets send up the same old lessons
found when the south wind keeps on coming,
we will get by, we will keep on coming,
we will get by, we will come along,
we will fix our hearts over,
the south wind says so.

 

Listening with a pencil and my ear, these are the lines I marked:

we will get by, we will keep on coming,
we will get by, we will come along,
we will fix our hearts over,
the south wind says so.

 

The melancholy tone of this poems is palpable. It is created primarily by the way Sandburg uses the long ‘o’ sound in the beginning of the poem. Each of the first five lines have one long ‘o’. It is something you notice especially when you read the poem out-loud, something you should always do with every poem.

Sandburg, a musician, understands “sound” as well as any poet. He also understand space, growing up as he did in the flat and open prairie of western Illinois. This is why he does the small poem so well which relies so heavily on the interplay between sound and space.

 

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