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Read This: Carl Sandburg's Lost Poem A Revolver

By Samantha Abernethy in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 23, 2013 8:00PM

A volunteer at the University of Illinois uncovered a previously unknown Carl Sandburg poem in the school's Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Sandburg — the Chicago poet responsible for the name "City of the Big Shoulders" — wrote A Revolver about the power of a gun, a topic especially relevant to current events.

Retired U. of I. professor Ernie Gullerud, 83, found the piece while helping index more than four tons of material in the Sandburg collection, documenting the first and list lines to make all Sandburg poems searchable online. Researchers detailed several points linking the poem to Sandburg, from the type of paper, typewriter smudges and the content.

"He has a lot of anti-war poems, poems that undercut the sense of war as the answer to whatever question somebody might have,” said [Sandburg scholar Kathryn Benzel.] “So the fact that he would write this poem … is really indicative of his perception of violence in society.”

The University of Illinois writes:

“I think it’s so interesting that Sandburg says poetically what we all know about guns: that they are the final word,” said [Valerie Hotchkiss, the head of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library.] “But he takes the idea one step forward to meditate on the effect of guns on freedom of speech - how the First Amendment is watered down by the Second Amendment. If somebody has a gun to your head, you can’t speak freely.”

Another scholar suspects the poem may have been inspired by the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, saying, "Sandburg was very concerned about that murder, and the use of the gun that killed Lincoln." Sandburg penned a Pulitzer-winning biography of Lincoln in 1940.