This is Carl Sandburg's third book of poetry and his largest. It is also the most wide-ranging. The title, Smoke and Steel, suggests the steel industry he knew in Chicago, Gary, and Pittsburg, but he writes about many other things as well. His over-arching theme seems to be human life as a struggle in adversity, a struggle for the mere necessities of life - food, clothing, shelter, work - and a struggle for the human soul, a struggle for love, charity, justice, equality. There is also eroticism, subtly expressed, in many of these poems; Sandburg loved beauty in every form, and the beauty of women was not lost on him.
Here you have the voice of a master poet, a genuinely and specifically American artist, at the top of his craft and passion. Enjoy!
A note to the listener: Sandburg, writing in the 1910s, sometimes used language that was racially and ethnically charged in his day and even more so in ours. It seems more honest to leave these few passages unaltered; we did speak this way once, and we do well not to forget the fact.
Public Domain (P)2011 Robert Bethune