Sunday, July 14, 2013

Analysis of "Cahoots" by Carl Sandburg

Original poem reprinted online here: "Cahoots" by Carl Sandburg
Originally read: March 24, 2013
More information about the Poet: Carl Sandburg






"Noir feel"  that's the first note I put on this poem; however, I didn't realize something until now.  The noir (hardboiled) genre didn't become popular until the 1920s.  I've been looking everywhere on when the poem was created or published, but nothing there.  So I have to assume this -- that this poem harkens to that time frame or is a commentary about reproduction of the 1920s.

Or maybe I shouldn't make that assumption, in any case, the voice of the poem fits with my ideal version of what the time frame felt like through content, voice, and tone.

"Play it across the table. / What if we steal this city blind?"  For me, there's a sense of nothing to lose here, because everything is lost.  It's an optimistic viewpoint in a Dystopian society -- which is the core of the hardboiled genre, or maybe the core of how to survive the 1920's.

"If they want any thing let 'em nail it down."  Brash.  I'm writing about the use of "'em" as a shortner for "them."  The language, the voice of the poem, is starting to become narrower to something specific.

Then the set of rhetorical questions in the second stanza -- there's nicknames used like, "bulls, dicks" in which they are all in "cahoots."  Note how their nicknames are in together -- is it the front or the real?  It's kind of weird in the noir genre because the nickname is the real intent of the person; meanwhile, the real name and life is just a front -- usually most of the time.  The other rhetorical question "what's to hinder?" reinforces the point I had in the beginning -- all these different types of people are banding together with nothing to lose -- so let's steal something/do a crime.

I fine the start of the thirst stanza curious -- "Go fifty-fifty." Past me wrote, "command -- sounds like the speaker is in 'cahoots' with the audience."  I agree with the command part, but I'm going to expand upon the audience part.  Since this is written in as a  poem, the audience is voyeurs to this -- we are the outsiders looking in.  Yes, readers will cast judgement on this poem; however, the actual tone and voice of the poem deals more with a proposition with multiple ways to be "free" if you are caught, "Fix it, you gazump, you slant-head, fix it.  Feed 'em . . . ."  Bribery.  Also by insulting the "you" with weird names, adds more to the sense of the time, superiority (no matter how minor), and, I think, something more personal since they are not common insults.

The last stanza focuses on the "I" who goes symbolic with the idea of "mittens."  For the speaker, nothing "sticks" to him.  But then the speaker goes outwards and states that their is not law to wear mittens.  Then the last line, "There oughta be a law everybody wear mittens."  And the joke last line where the "criminals" are asking for a law (in which they would abuse -- presumably), and the symbol of the mittens solidifies that this poem is more of a critique of the representation of the period rather than a period piece.

No the poem isn't about how people survived during a time.  The poem, to me, is more of how people were perceived during the time.

1 comment:

  1. It's interesting to me that you go straight for Noir and it reminds me, the poem and the noir, directly, almost instantly of steel and Frick. Sandburg was considered a socialist because he and other literary peeps were dabbling in and around the bull that was going on with the workers world. If course the steel mill stuff of Frick and Carnegie are a couple years behind him in this poem, I can help but feel the blackness of soot in the poem. Even the language is soot-like, cough like, what some might call man-like, what others might call low.

    I like your concept of reader and speaker being in cahoots w each other. Yeah, totally, we're talking about an idealist writing about the proletariat while being from/in the proliteriat by birth, maybe not now. So yeah, cahoots is a good, awesome way to think of it.

    I do wonder is he running with what crowd here. No New Criticism for me!

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