Friday, June 28, 2013

Jack Dempsey Presents Ink Trails to Clarke Audience

by Frank Boles

On June 25, an appreciative audience listened to a Jack Dempsey as he spoke about his book, Ink Trails. A lifelong Michigan resident, Jack set out to disprove the popular notion that most authors live in New York or California, with a few obstinately residing in Chicago. He and his brother, Dave, set out to write vignettes about the famous, once popular, or simply unrecognized authors for whom Michigan mattered.

The story of Carl Sandburg, biographer of Lincoln and famed poet, perhaps sums up the failure of Michigan to get literary notice. Sandburg is usually associated either with Illinois where he was born or North Carolina where he died. Usually forgotten is a fifteen period from 1930 to 1945 when he lived in Harbert, Michigan.

It is not as if Sandburg wasn’t busy writing in Harbert. In a house with a view of Lake Michigan, Sandburg wrote Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, a work that won him his first Pulitzer Prize. The Sandburg’s eventually moved to North Carolina not for literary inspiration but rather because Lilian, his wife (who was born in Hancock, Michigan), wanted to move to North Carolina to better raise goats, something she had begun doing in 1935 and for which she became nationally recognized.

Sandburg’s boyhood home is preserved as an Illinois State Historic Site. Sandburg’s North Carolina home is preserved by the National Park Service (although one has to hunt about their website to find any mention of the goats – but it’s there, see Harbert? There is hope that Michigan might put up a historical marker noting Sandburg’s long residence in the town, someday.

The Sandburg story was one of those shared by Mr. Dempsey in his presentation, which we hope to soon make available on the web (stay tune to the Clarke Historical Library News and Notes Blog for updates), and in his book, Ink Trails. We are pleased to join him in recalling the rich literary history of our state.