For reasons best known to myself I was doing some research into the American poet and writer Carl Sandburg which involved reading his FBI records. In itself, his FBI file is nothing out of the ordinary : any decent person slightly to the left of Attila the Hun seems to have gathered such a collection of spiteful accusations and innuendo in America in the 40s, 50s and 60s. But as I looked at a typical page from the file, with its blacked-out paragraphs, numerous rubber stamps, and endless annotations, I began to see the page as an image rather than as a document. It didn't need to be read : you could almost feel the bureaucratic enmity leach from the page. It was a piece of art, black art maybe, but a visual monument to all those of have seen lives and loves and beliefs as things to to be recorded and used as weapons of oppression.
The thing which started me in my quest for knowledge of Sandburg (and my apologies to my American friends for being ignorant about him until now) was the advice he gave to his friend, Martha Dodd, before she left for Germany in 1933 where her father, William E Dodd, was about to take up the position of the American Ambassador in Germany. In his excellent book 1933, Philip Metcalfe quotes Sandburg saying the following to Martha Dodd.
"Find out what this man Hitler is made of, what makes his brain go round, what his bones and blood are made of. Before your eyes will pass the greatest pageant of crooks and gangsters, idealists, statesmen, criminals, diplomats and geniuses. You will see every nationality in the world. Watch them, study them, dissect them. Don't be frightened or diffident, don't let them or your experiences spoil you or your eagerness for life. Be brave and truthful, keep your poetry and integrity"
The GLW and myself set out for Wales tomorrow for a short shopping trip. We will be staying with a cousin in North Wales whose daughter and son-in-law, I am happy to relate, run several pubs. Compared to Martha Dodds' journey, a trip to Wales is nothing much I suppose, but I too will attempt to be brave and truthfull and hold on tight to my poetry and integrity.
THE DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES : And speaking of poetry, my good blogging friend, John Hayes, has just launched a new blog - The Days of Wine and Roses - devoted to his own poetry. Take a trip over there, it is well worth the visit.
THE FBI : Want to browse through the records of the FBI? Head over to the FBI's website and start searching. But be warned, its compulsive.