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Sandburg’s work is in many ways antithetical to Robert Frost’s--a careful analysis of Sandburg always invites a contrast and comparison to Robert Frost: Sandburg favored a hard-hitting style that could also, as in "Fog," swing toward the light, beautiful, and touching. Harriet Monroe, on first reading his work for her magazine Poetry, was struck by Sandburg’s "beauty and power," and by the range of a work that found its sources, in part, in the uneven and unexpected career he shared with so many other modernist writers. Sandburg worked, however, largely in isolation from his contemporaries; he would remark that he’d had no idea until years later that he had been part of a renaissance in poetry known as the Chicago Movement. "Chicago" is one of Sandburg’s most famous works, once called the "most talked about" poem ever published in Poetry. In form and subject it combines brutal realism with social commentary, and offers no resolution--only description. "Fog" is also among Sandburg’s best-known works, displaying the poet’s gift for enlarging the small to mythic proportions, as well as his interest in juxtaposing human and natural elements. "Cool Tombs," on the other hand, reduces mythic historical figures to dust. Sandburg’s reputation has suffered in certain critical circles, which have at times found his work exploitative and reactionary. Yet North Callahan, in Carl Sandburg, His Life and Works (1987), has been among those to laud the poet for "unveil[ing] a new poetic idiom in America," one which shocked readers accustomed to elegance and restraint. Callahan has read "Fog" as "the inner melody in a new poetic symphony," as "plain and moving, yet fleeting." Much has also been made of Sandburg’s attachment to and affection for the "common American," and one may wish to examine how Sandburg’s "popular" appeal differed from that of and continually contrasted with Robert Frost (both men were widely read).
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