Happy birthday to Carl Sandberg, and to Sandy Denny! Both artists were born on the date christians know as Epiphany. And in ways I can’t fully explain, their work has helped me to gain some small understanding of the world, (as much as I may ever have), which I consider epiphany (with a small E) — “the sudden intuitive perception of, or insight into, the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.” Such as reading a poem, or hearing a song. Since I’m not always that bright, I appreciate the help. And the coincidence, too.
We know Sandberg’s Chicago poems and his Lincoln biography, to some extent. These have shown me what strength and decency there is in my country’s heritage and history. Not in everything, sadly enough. But there is so much to admire and to build on, in the best of our traditions. He always urges us to work together for our common good, for the dignity of our shared humanity, as he pushes us to struggle on toward that more perfect union.
You may be less familiar with Sandy Denny, who was arguably the finest English folk singer of our time. It has been covered by many talented singers, so you may know her signature song “Who Knows Where the Time Goes”, which has seemed almost too poignant since her untimely death in 1978. It feels absurd, but I still miss her. What little I know of the art and craft of singing, I learned from her recordings, and from all the wonderful singers and music I have discovered over the years, because her work sparked such a fierce passion in me for the entire British folk genre, and for much more. She is absolutely not responsible for my endless shortcomings as a singer! But I’d still love to be half as good when I grow up. Or should I say, if?
For more examples of their work, see the entry for 6 January, on my Literary January page: