Thursday, January 6, 2011

Play it for the poet

If you own a guitar you need to pick it up today and play it.

Play it in honor of the poet Carl Sandburg, who could master a guitar phrasing as well as he could turn a phrase.  He is of course best known as a writer who won international fame and respect for his poetry, children's books and clever, plain-spoken views of the world. A sampling:

Life is like an onion; you peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep.

Writing and folk music were Sandburg's passions, and he made no bones about it. "I am a loafer and a writer," he once wrote, "and would much rather loaf and write, and pick a guitar with the proper vags, than to deliver spoken exhortations before any honorables bodies wheresoever."

You won't get an argument within the walls of the Sanctuary.

Read this contribution to the Guitar Review written by Sandburg and published in 1951, and you will know his relationship with the guitar was both caring and intimate.

The Guitar: Some Definitions

by Carl Sandburg

A chattel with a soul, often in part owning its owner and tantalizing him with his lack of perfection.

An instrument of quaint design and quiet demeanor, dedicated to the dulcet rather than the diapason.

A box of chosen woods having intimate accessories wherefrom sound is measured and commanded to the interest of ears not lost to hammer crash or wind whisper.

A portable companion, distinguished from the piano in that you can take it with you, neither horses nor motor truck being involved.

A small friend weighing less than a newborn infant, ever responsive to all sincere efforts aimed at mutual respect, depth of affection or love gone off the deep end.

A device in the realm of harmonic creation whose six silent strings have the sound potential of profound contemplation or happy-go-lucky whim.

A highly evolved contrivance whereby delicate melodic moments mingle with punctuation of silence bringing the creative hush.

A vibratory implement under incessant practice and skilled cajolery giving out with serene maroon meditations, flame dancers with scarlet sashes, snow-white acrobats plunging into black midnight pools, odd numbers in evening green waltzing with even numbers in dawn pink.

Happy birthday Mr. Sandburg, born on this day in 1878.


  1. Carl Sandburg for a brief time was a HOBO, and he wrote some about the hobo life.

    So I'm wondering if liked Boxcar Willie records?

  2. words to live by...

  3. Well said. Magical, descriptive prose. Thanks Strumbum for introducing it to me.