Caesar Zwaska



Modernity Exposed

— And Gone One Better *


Literatur: Zwaska
Literatur: The Little Review


IT has come to be that on the stage, where once we watched for artists, we find only vainly strutting weak-willed human beings. We are not held, and the light within the sacred space grows dimmer. We lose all interest in places where once we have found Art.

And how desperate we have become!

The procession of the Imagists has been the only sacred thing before our eyes – thin and fragrant. Their fragility has the sap of eternity; blustering winds, blowing through the gaps back-stage, tear at them in vain. The Imagists have grown straight and strong. The beauty of their tiny procession strikes into our very hearts the emptiness, the appalling desolation, of our position.

Carl Sandburg has understood the failures and the lies and exposed the cause. He has shown the lie of your government and the farce and folly of monuments to those who kill to keep it alive. He exposes your little deaths and their perfumed sorrow and the bunk of words and antics of your Billy Sunday and fellow citizens. He has heard the "fellows saying here's good stuff for a novel or it might be worked up into a good play," when speaking of an Italian widow living in city slums. He has the courage and the knack of giving them the challenge – calling their bluff; and he declares with strong conviction that he's able to back up his defiance. Who of the scatter-brains living could put her or her daughter-in-law or the working girls or the entire mob, for that matter, into a play? But he has put them, their spirit, into lines, gaunt and vivid as their lives. And I declare he is the only modern that has got it across.

This is the process of the book and of the poet's progress: The Chicago poems; he has worked his vengeance; from the cinders and ashes, glowing still, rise sparks, brilliant and tiny. (He calls them Handfuls.) [10] The stifling smoulder of the War poems to the warm rich glow of The Road and the End and the flame of the fire with its attendant fogs and then grim shadows. As a confession, or rather a solidifying of the entire force of the poet, he reveals the Other Days, quite as intense as the present mood. This from the last of that section:

Snatch the gag from thy mouth, child,
And be free to keep silence.
Tell no man anything for no man listens,
Yet hold thy lips ready to speak.

Why should a man speak? When there are things to say, such as the Red Son, always have your lips ready to speak:

I am going away and I never come back to you;
Crags and high rough places call me,
Great places of death
Where men go empty-handed
And pass over smiling
To the star-drift on the horizon rim;
My last whisper shall be alone, unknown;
I shall go to the city and fight against it,
And make it give me passwords
Of luck and love, women worth dying for,
And money.
      I go where you wist not of
      Nor I nor any man nor woman.
      I only know I go to storms
Grappling against things wet and naked.
There is no pity of it and no blame
None of us is in the wrong.
After all it is only this:
      You for the little hills and I go away.

Poetry has grown stronger in your eyes?

Thus has Carl Sandburg in one book gone the entire range of a life today. The humanitarian poet as well as the artist-poet. He has proven things – and peoples. The nigger: foam of teeth . . . breaking crash of laughter; Mrs. Gabrielle Giovannitti: with that kindling wood [11] piled on her head, coming along Peoria street nine o'clock in the morning; Jan Kubelik: girls of Bohemia . . . in the hills with their lovers; Chick Lorimer: a wild girl keeping a hold on a dream she wants; Mischa Elman: a singing fire and a climb of roses; the plowboy: turning the turf in the dusk and haze of an April gloaming; the gypsy: her neck and head the top piece of a Nile obelisk. He has known uplands when the great strong hills are humble; losses: and one day we will hold only the shadows; wars: in the wars to come kings kicked under the dust and millions of men following great causes not yet dreamed out in the heads of men; joy: sent on singing, singing, smashed to the hearts under the ribs with a terrible love; the mist: at the first of things, I will be at the last; and The Great Hunt:

      When the rose's flash to the sunset
      Reels to the rack and the twist.
      And the rose is a red bygone,
      When the face I love is going
      And the gate to the end shall clang,
      And it's no use to beckon or say, "So long" –
Maybe I'll tell you then –
                                  some other time.



[Fußnote, S. 9]

* Chicago Poems, by Carl Sandburg. New York: Henry Holt.   zurück





Erstdruck und Druckvorlage

The Little Review.
Bd. 3, 1916, Nr. 5, August, S. 9-11.

Die Textwiedergabe erfolgt nach dem ersten Druck (Editionsrichtlinien).

The Little Review   online







Literatur: Zwaska

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Brinkman, Bartholomew: Making modern Poetry. Format, Genre and the Invention of Imagism(e). In: Journal of Modern Literature 32.2 (2009), S. 20-40.

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Marsh, John: A Spirit of Two Ages: The Romantic Modernism of Carl Sandburg's Chicago Poems. In: Chicago. A Literary History. Hrsg. von Frederik B. Køhlert. Cambridge 2021, S. 194-207.

Newcomb, John T.: How Did Poetry Survive? The Making of Modern American Verse. Urbana, Ill. u.a. 2012.

Olson, Liesl: Chicago Renaissance. Literature and Art in the Midwest Metropolis. New Haven u. London 2017.

Van Wienen, Mark: Taming the Socialist: Carl Sandburg's Chicago Poems and Its Critics. In: American Literature. A Journal of Literary History, Criticism, and Bibliography 63.1 (1991), S. 89-103.



Literatur: The Little Review

Baggett, Holly A.: Making No Compromise. Margaret Anderson, Jane Heap, and the "Little Review". Ithaca, NY 2023.

Brinkman, Bartholomew: Poetry, the Little Review, and Chicago Modernism. In: Chicago. A Literary History. Hrsg. von Frederik B. Køhlert. Cambridge 2021, S. 180-193.

Dimakopoulou, Stamatina: Politics and Paradigms for Art in America: Reframing Radicalism in The Little Review. In:: Revues modernistes, revues engagées: (1900-1939). Hrsg. von Hélène Aji u.a. Rennes 2011, S. 269-285.

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Golding, Alan: The Little Review (1914-29). In: The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines. Hrsg. von Peter Brooker u.a. Bd. 2: North America 1894-1960. Oxford 2012, S. 61-84.

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Sigler, Amanda: Modernist Authorship and Transatlantic Periodical Culture 1895–1925. London u. New York 2022.



Lyriktheorie » R. Brandmeyer