Study Guide

Grass Repetition

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For such a short poem, "Grass" sure does repeat itself a lot. Sandburg repeats several lines and phrases over the course of the poem's 11 lines, and we can't help but wonder: why, Sandburg, why? Well, we do have a couple of ideas in store. First, repetition is a form of emphasis. It sears lines into our brains. We're not likely to forget the grass's lines in this poem for the simple fact that they are repeated so often. But the grass's repetitive way of speaking also shows us its singular focus on work, work, work (and growing, growing, growing). This grass ain't gonna change its tune and give us a new perspective on war. It's up to us to do that.

Lines 1-11: Throughout the poem, Sandburg repeats the phrases "pile them high," "shovel them under," and "let me work." Even though he's talking about different wars, the grass's response is always the same. It wants to grow. It doesn't give a hot biscuit about the lives of the soldiers who died, or about commemorating national or personal losses. The repetition of these phrases hits this point home, and also makes us wonder about the limitations of the grass's one-track mind. Grass has never been known for its deep thinking, after all.

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