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Recently, we went to visit poet Carl Sandburg’s home in North Carolina in the Blue Ridge Mountains. When Sandburg moved to the mountain farm Connemara, at age 67, he was already a renowned poet, Pulitzer Prize winning author, biographer, lecturer and minstrel. While living at Connemara he completed one-third of his life’s works, including winning a Pulitzer Prize for his poetry.

One of the most intriguing things for me at Connemara, aside from sitting in a chair on the rock where he often penned his poems, was seeing the 14,000 volumes of books that lined most of the home’s walls.


Many of the books had tiny strips of paper inserted between the pages, and I wondered what the famous poet had found interesting enough to bookmark hundreds of pages in thousands of books. Had he marked something that sparked his interest for a new poem, a political reference that supported his socialist stance, a reference or item he wanted to share with family and friends?  Whatever it was, it certainly piqued my curiosity.

For any poetry lovers who read this blog, here are 10 definitions of poetry from Carl Sandburg and a link  where you can find his poetry online.

Ten Definitions of Poetry by poet Carl Sandburg

Carl Sandburg (1878-1867)

  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 a journal of a sea animal living on land, wanting to fly the air.
  3. Poetry is a series of explanations of life, fading off into horizons too swift for explanations.
  4. Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable.
  5. 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.
  6. Poetry is the silence and speech between a wet struggling root of a flower and a sunlit blossom of that flower.
  7. Poetry is the harnessing of the paradox of earth cradling life and then entombing it.
  8. Poetry is a phantom script telling how rainbows are made and why they go away.
  9. Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.
  10. Poetry is the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what is seen during a moment.

My favorite definitions are number 7 and 10. What’s yours?

Photos (c) by D. Hershberger