Lifesaving Poems: Carl Sandburg’s ‘Buffalo Dusk’

Anthony Wilson

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Apart from e e cummings and the genius Anon, one of my chief discoveries in the Voices and Junior Voices series that I wrote about yesterday was Carl Sandburg

I loved his long lines, his casual-sounding chattiness and his use of repetition to build hypnotic rhythms that suddenly made you realise he was deadly serious all along. I also loved what he wrote about: being stuck in traffic, lying, not being good at mathematics and the wind:

And the wind shifts

and the dust on a door sill shifts

and even the writing of the rat footprints

tells us nothing, nothing at all

about the greatest city, the greatest nation

where the strong men listened

and the women warbled: Nothing like us ever was.

-from Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind

Like Les Murray and Pablo Neruda, he seems to have written a poem about absolutely everything…

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