fog :: carl sandburg

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

soapsuds :: carl sandburg

Blue and amber lay in the soapsuds.
Silver crossed pearl in the bubbles.
Her beautiful hands ran in a ritual.
The water jewels cried with rainbows.
She was preparing to meet someone.
The high morning sun struck the foam.
Seven circles of the moon gave answers.

languages :: carl sandburg

There are no handles upon a language
Whereby men take hold of it
And mark it with signs for its remembrance.
It is a river, this language,
Once in a thousand years
Breaking a new course
Changing its way to the ocean.
It is mountain effluvia
Moving to valleys
And from nation to nation
Crossing borders and mixing.
Languages die like rivers.
Words wrapped round your tongue today
And broken to shape of thought
Between your teeth and lips speaking
Now and today
Shall be faded hieroglyphics
Ten thousand years from now.
Sing—and singing—remember
Your song dies and changes
And is not here to-morrow
Any more than the wind
Blowing ten thousand years ago.

poetry considered :: carl sandburg

1. Poetry is a projection across silence of cadences arranged to break that silence with definite intentions of echoes, syllables, wave lengths.

2. Poetry is an art practiced with the terribly plastic material of human language.

3. Poetry is the report of a nuance between two moments, when people say, ‘Listen!’ and ‘Did you see it?’ ‘Did you hear it? What was it?’

4. Poetry is a tracing of the trajectories of a finite sound to the infinite points of its echoes.

5. Poetry is a sequence of dots and dashes, spelling depths, crypts, cross-lights, and moon wisps.

6. Poetry is a puppet-show, where riders of skyrockets and divers of sea fathoms gossip about the sixth sense and the fourth dimension.

7. Poetry is a plan for a slit in the face of a bronze fountain goat and the path of fresh drinking water.

8. Poetry is a slipknot tightened around a time-beat of one thought, two thoughts, and a last interweaving thought there is not yet a number for.

9. Poetry is an echo asking a shadow dancer to be a partner.

10. Poetry is the journal of a sea animal living on land, wanting to fly the air.

11. Poetry is a series of explanations of life, fading off into horizons too swift for explanations.

12. Poetry is a fossil rock-print of a fin and a wing, with an illegible oath between.

13. Poetry is an exhibit of one pendulum connecting with other and unseen pendulums inside and outside the one seen.

14. Poetry is a sky dark with a wild-duck migration.

15. Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable.

16. Poetry is any page from a sketchbook of outlines of a doorknob with thumb-prints of dust, blood, dreams.

17. Poetry is a type-font design for an alphabet of fun, hate, love, death.

18. Poetry is the cipher key to the five mystic wishes packed in a hollow silver bullet fed to a flying fish.

19. Poetry is a theorem of a yellow-silk handkerchief knotted with riddles, sealed in a balloon tied to the tail of a kite flying in a white wind against a blue sky in spring.

20. Poetry is a dance music measuring buck-and-wing follies along with the gravest and stateliest dead-marches.

21. Poetry is a sliver of the moon lost in the belly of a golden frog.

22. Poetry is a mock of a cry at finding a million dollars and a mock of a laugh at losing it.

23. Poetry is the silence and speech between a wet struggling root of a flower and a sunlit blossom of that flower.

24. Poetry is the harnessing of the paradox of earth cradling life and then entombing it.

25. Poetry is the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what is seen during a moment.

26. Poetry is a fresh morning spider-web telling a story of moonlit hours of weaving and waiting during a night.

27. Poetry is a statement of a series of equations, with numbers and symbols changing like the changes of mirrors, pools, skies, the only never-changing sign being the sign of infinity.

28. Poetry is a packsack of invisible keepsakes.

29. Poetry is a section of river-fog and moving boat-lights, delivered between bridges and whistles, so one says, ‘Oh!’ and another, ‘How?’

30. Poetry is a kinetic arrangement of static syllables.

31. Poetry is the arithmetic of the easiest way and the primrose path, matched up with foam-flanked horses, bloody knuckles, and bones, on the hard ways to the stars.

32. Poetry is a shuffling of boxes of illusions buckled with a strap of facts.

33. Poetry is an enumeration of birds, bees, babies, butterflies, bugs, bambinos, babayagas, and bipeds, beating their way up bewildering bastions.

34. Poetry is a phantom script telling how rainbows are made and why they go away.

35. Poetry is the establishment of a metaphorical link between white butterfly-wings and the scraps of torn-up love-letters.

36. Poetry is the achievement of the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.

37. Poetry is a mystic, sensuous mathematics of fire, smoke-stacks, waffles, pansies, people, and purple sunsets.

38. Poetry is the capture of a picture, a song, or a flair, in a deliberate prism of words.

Nine Tentative (First Model) Definitions Of Poetry

1. Poetry is a projection across silence of cadences arranged to break that silence with definite intentions of echoes, syllables, wave lengths.

2. Poetry is the harnessing of the paradox of earth cradling life and then entombing it.

3. Poetry is a series of explanations of life, fading off into horizons too swift for explanations.

4. Poetry is a sky dark with a wild-duck migration.

5. Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable.

6. Poetry is a packsack of invisible keepsakes.

7. Poetry is a phantom script telling how rainbows are made and why they go away.

8. Poetry is the achievement of the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.

9. Poetry is the capture of a picture, a song, or a flair, in a deliberate prism of words.

(via, via)

 

I have a difficult time telling which version of this article/poem is definitive. From what I can tell (not having access to the primary sources), it seems like the first incarnation was an article called “Poetry Considered” in The Atlantic Monthly (vol. 131, 1923, pages 342-343). Then, the 38 “definitions” were republished in Good Morning, America (1928), perhaps as the opening poem? Years later, Sandburg selected and re-numbered 9 of the “definitions”, and published them in Harvest Poems (1960), as “Nine Tentative (First Model) Definitions Of Poetry”. Finally, people on the internet seem to have cherry-picked 10 of their own favorites, and labeled the poem “Ten Definitions Of Poetry, by Carl Sandburg”, but it doesn’t seem like those particular ones were ever selected and titled as such by the author.

autumn movement :: carl sandburg

I cried over beautiful things knowing no beautiful thing lasts.

The field of cornflower yellow is a scarf at the neck of the copper sunburned woman,
           the mother of the year, the taker of seeds.

The northwest wind comes and the yellow is torn full of holes, new beautiful things
           come in the first spit of snow on the northwest wind, and the old things go,
           not one lasts.