Festival for the Mind

Sandburg Days includes exploration of 'Mr. Sandburg and Mr. Lincoln'

May 27, 2014

Sandburg Stature Celebration

by Ashley Wolfgang '14

Penelope Niven, author of a biography about Galesburg native Carl Sandburg, recently spoke to a Knox College audience about the well-known writer and his lifelong fascination with Abraham Lincoln.

In her lecture, "Mr. Sandburg and Mr. Lincoln," Niven discussed how and why Sandburg began studying Abraham Lincoln and howPenelope Niven gives talk on 'Mr.Sandburg and Mr.Lincoln' Galesburg influenced this work. Niven, who wrote Carl Sandburg: A Biography, revealed that Sandburg first became fascinated with Lincoln during the 38th anniversary of the Lincoln-Douglas debate at Knox where he heard Lincoln's son, Robert Todd Lincoln, speak. Sandburg later wrote an extensive biography of Abraham Lincoln.

(Photo above: The new Carl Sandburg statue on the square in downtonw Galesburg, created by artist Lonnie Stewart. Photo at right: Penelope Niven gives her talk, "Mr. Sandburg and Mr. Lincoln.")

"To grow up in Galesburg is to absorb the history of this place. There are people here who have made history, and Abraham Lincoln's shadow is everywhere," explained Niven. "I would not have known that without choosing to further explore Sandburg's life."

Niven said she became "enchanted" with Sandburg after visiting his North Carolina home, a national historic site. Not long afterward, she wrote to the site's superintendent, and she eventually helped work on archiving Sandburg letters. She read and organized more than 30,000 papers and interviews with Sandburg and his associates. Later, an agent encouraged her to write Sandburg's biography.

Niven's April 24 appearance at Knox College was part of the 2014 Sandburg Days Festival for the Mind. The festival takes place each spring, bringing together the Knox College, Carl Sandburg College, and Galesburg communities.

This year's 19th annual festival included: a welcome parade and reception of the new Carl Sandburg statue in downtown Galesburg; the 25th Annual Carl Sandburg College Poetry Awards; a Reader's Theatre performance of Norman Corwin's The World of Carl Sandburg; a writer's workshop with Sandburg biographer Penelope Niven; and the Eighth Annual Rootabaga Poetry Slam.

Every year, the festival features three days of literary, historical, and children's events that celebrate Sandburg, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and Lincoln biographer. (Photo Below: Steve Selwa '13 leads Nicole Hughes '15 and members of the Galesburg community through a reading of "The World of Carl Sandburg")

Steve Selwa '13 leads Nicole Hughes '15 and Galesburg residents through a reader's theatre called "The World of Carl Sandburg"