'Under A Telephone Pole' by Carl Sandburg

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I am a copper wire slung in the air,
Slim against the sun I make not even a clear line of shadow.
Night and day I keep singing--humming and thrumming:
It is love and war and money; it is the fighting and thetears, the work and want,
Death and laughter of men and women passing throughme, carrier of your speech,
In the rain and the wet dripping, in the dawn and theshine drying,A copper wire.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Under A Telephone Pole by Carl Sandburg

Are you a poetry enthusiast looking for a gem to add to your collection? Then look no further than Carl Sandburg's "Under A Telephone Pole." This classic poem, first published in 1914, is a vivid depiction of the urban landscape and the complexities of modern communication. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve deep into the themes and techniques used by Sandburg in this seminal work of American poetry.


"Under A Telephone Pole" is a short poem of only 16 lines. It is written in free verse, meaning it has no set rhyme or meter. The poem is structured in three stanzas of varying length, with each stanza exploring a different aspect of the scene under the telephone pole.

The poem opens with a description of the "crackle and hum" of the telephone wires, which Sandburg compares to "a song under the feet of the people." The next stanza focuses on the "street cars grinding and biting," creating a jarring contrast to the peaceful hum of the telephone wires. In the final stanza, Sandburg describes a "dirty-faced child" playing in the dirt, seemingly oblivious to the noise and chaos around him.

At first glance, "Under A Telephone Pole" may seem like a simple observation of a mundane scene. However, as we will see, the poem is far more complex than it first appears.


One of the central themes of "Under A Telephone Pole" is the contrast between technology and nature. The humming telephone wires and grinding streetcars represent the encroachment of modern technology on the natural world. Sandburg's use of the word "song" to describe the hum of the wires suggests that he sees some beauty in this technological intrusion, but it is also clear that he recognizes the negative impact it has on the environment.

Another theme explored in the poem is the idea of communication. The telephone wires and streetcars are both examples of communication technology, but they are very different in their purpose and effect. The wires transmit information through sound, while the streetcars are noisy and disorienting. Sandburg seems to be suggesting that not all forms of communication are equal, and that we must be mindful of the ways in which we communicate with each other and with the world around us.

Finally, the poem touches on the theme of innocence and ignorance. The dirty-faced child playing in the dirt is a symbol of the innocence and simplicity that can be found even in the midst of chaos and noise. At the same time, however, the child's ignorance of the dangers and complexities of the world around him is a reminder of our own limitations and vulnerabilities.


One of the most striking techniques used by Sandburg in "Under A Telephone Pole" is his use of imagery. The poem is full of vivid and evocative descriptions of the scene under the telephone pole. The "crackle and hum" of the wires, the "grinding and biting" of the streetcars, and the "dirty-faced child" all create a rich and detailed picture of the urban landscape.

Another technique used by Sandburg is his use of repetition. The phrase "under a telephone pole" is repeated throughout the poem, creating a sense of unity and cohesion. At the same time, the repetition of the word "song" emphasizes the musical quality of the hum of the wires, while the repetition of the word "grinding" underscores the harshness of the streetcars.

Finally, Sandburg's use of enjambment, or the continuation of a sentence or phrase across lines of poetry, creates a sense of flow and movement in the poem. The lines "And the wires / Running along the top of the poles" and "A dirty-faced child is laughing / And scattering pigeons" both use enjambment to create a sense of movement and continuity between the lines.


So, what does it all mean? What is Sandburg trying to say with "Under A Telephone Pole"? At its core, the poem is a meditation on the complexities and contradictions of modern life. The contrast between the beauty of the humming wires and the harshness of the grinding streetcars reflects the tension between the natural world and the encroachment of technology. The child playing in the dirt represents the simplicity and innocence that we often lose as we grow older and become more enmeshed in the complexities of the world around us.

At the same time, however, the child's ignorance of the dangers and complexities of the world is a reminder that we cannot simply retreat into a state of innocence and simplicity. We must engage with the world around us, even as we recognize its flaws and imperfections. Sandburg seems to be suggesting that the key to navigating this complex world lies in our ability to communicate with each other and with the world around us in a way that is both honest and respectful.


"Under A Telephone Pole" is a masterful work of American poetry that continues to resonate with readers today. Through his use of vivid imagery, repetition, and enjambment, Sandburg creates a rich and detailed picture of the urban landscape and the complexities of modern communication. The poem's themes of nature, communication, and innocence provide a powerful meditation on the challenges of modern life, and a reminder of the importance of engaging with the world around us.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Under A Telephone Pole: An Analysis of Carl Sandburg's Classic

Carl Sandburg's Poetry Under A Telephone Pole is a classic poem that has stood the test of time. It is a poem that captures the essence of life in the city, and the beauty that can be found in the most unexpected places. In this analysis, we will take a closer look at the poem and explore its themes, imagery, and language.

The poem begins with the speaker describing a scene in the city. They are standing under a telephone pole, and they notice a piece of paper stuck to it. The paper is a poem, and the speaker begins to read it. The poem is about the city, and it captures the energy and excitement of urban life. The speaker is struck by the beauty of the poem, and they are moved by its words.

The first theme that emerges in the poem is the idea of beauty in unexpected places. The speaker is standing under a telephone pole, which is not typically considered a beautiful or inspiring location. However, they find a piece of poetry there, and it transforms the space into something special. This theme is reinforced throughout the poem, as the speaker describes the beauty of the city and its people. They see beauty in the chaos of the streets, the noise of the traffic, and the diversity of the people.

Another theme that emerges in the poem is the idea of connection. The speaker is connected to the poet who wrote the piece of paper they found, even though they do not know them personally. They are also connected to the city and its people, and they feel a sense of belonging in this urban environment. This theme is reinforced by the language of the poem, which is full of sensory details that bring the city to life. The reader can almost feel the energy of the city and the people who inhabit it.

The imagery in the poem is also noteworthy. Sandburg uses vivid language to paint a picture of the city. He describes the "whirl of faces" and the "clangor of wheels" that can be found on the streets. He also uses sensory details to describe the sounds and smells of the city, such as the "smell of the river" and the "singing of the electric wires." This imagery helps to create a sense of place and to transport the reader to the city streets.

The language of the poem is also worth examining. Sandburg uses simple, direct language that is accessible to all readers. He does not use flowery or ornate language, but instead relies on concrete details to convey his message. This makes the poem easy to understand and appreciate, even for readers who may not be familiar with poetry.

The poem is also notable for its use of repetition. Sandburg repeats the phrase "under a telephone pole" throughout the poem, which creates a sense of rhythm and reinforces the central image of the poem. This repetition also serves to emphasize the idea that beauty can be found in unexpected places.

In conclusion, Poetry Under A Telephone Pole is a classic poem that captures the beauty and energy of urban life. It explores themes of beauty in unexpected places and connection to others, and it uses vivid imagery and simple language to create a sense of place. The poem is a testament to the power of poetry to transform even the most mundane locations into something special. It is a poem that continues to resonate with readers today, and it is a testament to the enduring legacy of Carl Sandburg as a poet.

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