of the Aesthetic Realism class
"It Is, As It's Elsewhere"
Billy Sunday, Mr. Siegel observed, has a rhythm like the present day evangelist,
Billy Graham--and the similarities do not end there. At the
time of this lecture, 1970, our country was engaged in a massive, brutal
war in Vietnam for the purpose of forcing an economic system--the profit
system--on people who wanted the freedom to choose something else for their
country. Billy Graham, the Presidential minister, supported
this horribly unjust war which took the lives of more than a million people.
Graham, Mr. Siegel commented, "serves the highest interests of General
Motors better than he serves the highest interests of the only son of God."
Later in the poem, Sandburg
is passionately critical of an aspect of "secular injustice,"-- economic
injustice--that Billy Sunday wasn't interested in:
You tell $6 a week department store
girls all they need is
"Sandburg knows how
to use a long sentence followed by a short one," said Mr. Siegel, pointing
to the relation of depth and speed in these lines. And with deep compassion
and respect for the art and life of Carl Sandburg, he said:
Jesus; you take
a steel trust wop, dead without having
lived, gray and
shrunken at forty years of age, and you
tell him to look
at Jesus on the cross and he'll be all right.
You tell poor people they don't need any
more money on
payday and even
if it's fierce to be out of a job,
Jesus'll fix that
up all right, all right--all they
gotta do is take
Jesus the way you say.
I'm telling you Jesus wouldn't stand for
the stuff you're
handing out. Jesus
played it different. The bankers
and lawyers of Jerusalem
got their sluggers and
murderers to go
after Jesus just because Jesus wouldn't
play their game.
He didn't sit in with the big thieves.
This is not the Sandburg who later
had an estate in North Carolina, but it is the Sandburg whom the poetry
of America will cherish. When you wrote "To a Contemporary Bunkshooter,"
[Carl Sandburg] you didn't sit in with congressmen, senators. Your friends
were mighty strange, like the anarchists now in Chicago. That's when you
wrote poetry, Sandburg, not when the Chief Executive called you pal!
"The greatest line"
in this poem, Mr. Siegel said, "is the last":
I've been to this suburb of Jerusalem
they call Golgotha,
"It is the staccato independency of these words,"
Mr. Siegel said, "that make it poetry" And he said it would be even better
if this was put in short lines. But it's powerful even as a long line.
I think the poem should be studied," he said, "and people should be sincere:
Do they think poetry is there?"
where they nailed
Him, and I know if the story is
straight, it was
real blood ran from His hands and the
it was real blood spurted in red drops
where the spear
of the Roman soldier rammed in between
the ribs of this
Jesus of Nazareth.
Then, to have us
see the Sandburg music in relation to poetic music "as it is elsewhere,"
he read from Book II, Chapter 1 of Thomas Carlyle's The French Revolution.
"Some of the best prose" is in this book, he said, and he read sentences
of Carlyle that he saw as having the music of poetry. They tell of
how the forces that made for the French Revolution were at work, although
quiet and unseen, for many years before--which I feel is related to the
tremendous protest [of the WTO] in Seattle, Washington showing something
has been growing in power and consciousness: a beautiful anger at the injustice
of profit economics.
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