Friday, October 24, 2014

Analysis of "Mag" by Carl Sandburg

Poem Found here: "Mag" by Carl Sandburg



The opening line of this poem feels so personal, "I wish to God I never saw you, Mag" that I wondered if this was a confessional poem.  I read snippets of other analysis from other people here and here which discuss Sandburg's personal marriage with Lilian Steichen and his children.  Does this tie in with this poem.  Perhaps.

But I feel the core of this poem, stemming from Sandburg's series of Chicago poems, is more ubiquitous.  And even though the woman is named, it doesn't necessarily have to be about Sandburg, but rather the speaker's frustration about "Mag" and, furthermore, what she represents.

So the poem starts out with the speaker wishing, and the anaphora of wishing continues, "I wish you never quit your job and came along with me. / I wish we never bought a license and a white dress."  Note how the speaker projects his grief on Mag's actions, even if there is a "we" involved.  Mag quit for him.  They bought the dress for mag.

"For you to get married in the day we ran off to a minister"  Note how the speaker uses "you" for marriage as though the speaker doesn't or wasn't a participant.  Of course the "we" runs off to a minister, "And told him we would love each other and take care of each other."  The proclamation.  This is somewhat the core grief that isn't explained in the poem -- a connective promise between the speaker and "Mag" that binds them together.

Or should, "Yes, I'm wishing you lived somewhere away from here."  For me this line has strong implications that Mag is dead.  Not really.  I like to think that the situation at this point is that Mag is dead and the speaker is lamenting her death and tries to displace the blame stating it was "her" actions, but the "we" comes back up which brings the situation back to the speaker.  But, there's no clarification that she's dead, the speaker just wishes for distance, "And I was a bum on the bumpers a thousand miles away dead broke."  The adjective of "dead broke" indicates the play between "life" and "death" and how the speaker wished to trade places with her.  But the line does suggest the speaker would rather go to the extreme.

But in any case the wishing tumbles farther and faster like the line adjustments, "I wish the kids had never come / And rent and coal and clothes to pay for / And a grocery man calling for cash,"  Adult responsibility for the speaker that he's feeling alone in.  Regardless if Mag is alive or dead, the responsibilities of kids and bills start to weigh heavily on the speaker and he'd rather be the "bum" that is "dead broke" -- no responsibilities to others except for self.

"I wish to God I never saw you, Mag. / I wish to God the kids ad never come."  Here the regret come from Mag and the kids as they represent responsibility and perhaps debt.  Now the tricky idea is attachment and love which isn't fully developed in this poem which strengthens the feeling of regret -- overall regret in the poem.

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