Working Man’s Poetry

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Poetry, Socialism, Work

Carl Sandburg, born 1878, worked as an organizer for the Wisconsin Social Democratic Party and as secretary to Milwaukee’s first Socialist mayor, 1910-1912.  The Wisconsin Social Democratic Party later became the state affiliate for the Social Democratic Party of America, which later became a political party known as the Socialist Party of America.

Carl Sandburg received a Pulitzer award in 1919 for his book of poems published in 1918, Cornhuskers.  Sandburg also won a Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Abraham Lincoln, and another Pulitzer for his Complete Poems, 1950.

I found the book Cornhuskers at my local public library and I was able to buy it through the library’s bookstore for $2.00.  As a retired blue-collar worker, I find Sandburg’s poetry exceptional because he speaks to the working man and woman; he speaks to me.

I would like to share two of Carl Sandburg’s poems.  I can feel these poems in my chest.

Prayers of Steel

Lay me on an anvil, O God.

Beat me and hammer me into a crowbar.

Let me pry loose old walls.

Let me lift and loosen old foundations.

Lay me on an anvil, O God.

Beat me and hammer me into a steel spike.

Drive me into the girders that hold a skyscraper together.

Take red-hot rivets and fasten me into the central girders.

Let me be the great nail holding a skyscraper through blue nights

into white stars.


I give the undertakers permission to haul my body

to the graveyard and to lay away all, the head, the

feet, the hands, all: I know there is something left

over they can not put away.

Let the nanny goats and the billy goats of the shanty

people eat the clover over my grave and if any yellow

hair or any blue smoke of flowers is good enough to grow

over me let the dirty-fisted children of the shanty

people pick these flowers.

I have had my chance to live with the people who have

too much and the people who have too little and I chose

one of the two and I have told no man why.

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resilience + resistance + socialism

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