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Chicago Poems

4.04  ·  Rating Details ·  1,795 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews
Chicago Poems (1916) was Carl Sandburg's first published book of verse. Written in the poet's unique, personal idiom, these poems embody a soulfulness, lyric grace and a love of and compassion for the common man that earned Sandburg a reputation as a poet of the people.

Among the dozens of poems in this collection are such well-known verses as Chicago, Fog, To a Contemporar
Paperback, 88 pages
Published May 20th 1994 by Dover Publications (first published 1916)
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The Complete Poems by Emily DickinsonLeaves of Grass by Walt WhitmanShakespeare's Sonnets by William ShakespeareThe Waste Land and Other Poems by T.S. EliotAriel by Sylvia Plath
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Community Reviews

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Chicago Poems was published in 1916 and was Sandburg's first major volume of poetry. Most of the poems are about the city that he loved, and he viewed it as only a poet could; in it's starkness, it's beauty, and it's people. In it's first poem, the title poem, Chicago, Sandburg's first verse reads:

Hog butcher for the world,
Tool maker, stacker of wheat,
Player with railroads and the nation's freight handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of big shoulders.

Maybe the words are not so flattering, but he
Dec 01, 2010 Lavinia rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry, 2010, in-en
I thought I liked Sandburg. I read Maybe many years ago and it seemed funny, witty and different. And short, by all means. (Not in this volume)

Maybe he believes me, maybe not.
Maybe I can marry him, maybe not.

Maybe the wind on the prairie,
The wind on the sea, maybe,
Somebody, somewhere, maybe can tell.

I will lay my head on his shoulder
And when he asks me I will say yes,

At times, reading Chicago Poems feels like reading prose; not the short and witty stuff I expected. The city gets mythical p
Peycho Kanev
Jun 02, 2011 Peycho Kanev rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Well, by far on of the greatest collections ever of one of the greatest American poets. I really love it, not only because I live in Chicago.

And here is my little contribution to this great city:

One Poet in Chicago

This city is scary and supreme.
Its shiny lakeshore with white yachts
and seagulls and herons, tilting
quietly upon the marble waves.
The hard-blowing wind,
licking the rind of the imposing trees.
Those crazy and beautiful people,
walking up and down the streets,
as the Sears tower pierces t
Highly recommended and most enjoyable. The format for the Kindle version is a bit odd in spots but not hard to overcome. Great poems about Chicago and some other topics as well.
Connie  Kuntz
Feb 19, 2015 Connie Kuntz rated it it was amazing
I read this from my Kindle, which was great, but today, Joce and I went to the library to get the real thing. I suspected the format of the poetry was messed up in electronic format, and I wanted to know for myself and the kids what the poems looked like in their pristine forms. The librarian offered to help us and said she remembers reading Sandburg in school when she was a kid, which was probably forty or so years ago. She mentioned remembering "the fog coming in on little cat feet." Both Joce ...more
C. Hollis Crossman
Feb 16, 2012 C. Hollis Crossman rated it it was amazing
Chicago is the most American of cities, and Sandburg is among the most American of poets. His strong, oily, rough, brittle, acrid, hilarious, roughneck, tender odes to Chi-town are celebrations, indictments, and love-letters.

Whitman may have invented free verse, but writers like Sandburg perfected it. These poems would lose their impact written in any other form.

Here's the essence of Sandburg's genius: he writes tough and manly songs without sacrificing the true poetic element, and he sings the
Feb 24, 2013 Mjm rated it it was amazing
Sandburg unequivocally stands alongside the very greatest of American Poets, not least because the same author who gives us one of most celebrated examples of modern poetry, a verse so universal that my mother would recite it to me before I'd learned to read (i.e. THE fog comes / on little cat feet. / It sits looking / over harbor and city / on silent haunches / and then moves on.) and yet could produce work as profound as any metaphysical poet, drawing the tension between the mundane and the et ...more
Nov 28, 2013 Jimmy rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry-authors
I used to write poetry like this in college. Thankfully, I no longer do. As poetry goes, it's not very good. But in a time when we have Republicans cutting food stamps and Headstart while sucking up to the rich, Carl Sandburg is a breath of fresh air.

Like these:

by Carl Sandburg

AMONG the mountains I wandered and saw blue haze and
red crag and was amazed;
On the beach where the long push under the endless tide
maneuvers, I stood silent;
Under the stars on the prairie watching the Dipper
Black Heart
Feb 18, 2010 Black Heart rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, americans, chicago
For "Chicago Poems" I guess I was expecting something more. The definition of this "City of Big Shoulders" and a mythology one could cling to, the way New Yorkers define themselves against the rest of the world.

Carl Sandburg was the namesake for the junior high school I attended, in a suburb of Chicago. There were two other middle schools in that suburb, one *almost* named after a famous English statesman (Winston Churchill; Churchville's close, right?) and the other after... god knows whom (may
Jordan Parker
Sep 09, 2016 Jordan Parker added it
Shelves: poetry
This poem is the voice of “the people.” Sandburg makes the connection between the “I” and the broad, general term, “the people.” The poem suggests that the common people are the ones who work and toil and ultimately create history, sometimes in ways that “spatter a few red drops,” but usually in the ways they live their every day lives. How does this connect to students? Many times students don’t see or believe in their ability to create change. This poem suggests that it’s not the big revolutio ...more
Jun 08, 2016 Jeff rated it really liked it
Sandburg is able to write simple poems that little children recite ("The fog comes / on little cat feet / It sits looking / over harbor and city / on silent haunches / and then moves on) and poems that contemplate the meaning of life, death, war, the injustices of society, etc. Some of these poems are extremely heavy or difficult to understand, while others are filled with joy:

"I asked professors who teach the meaning of life to tell me what is happiness.
And I went to famous executives who boss
Jan 25, 2015 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book not knowing anything about Sandburg beyond a passing familiarity with the name and perhaps a few forgotten poems from an anthology in a high school Lit class. This collection features several discreet sections often arranged loosely around a theme and sometimes identified as written within a certain period. The poetry itself is easy to follow, in case you're the type to be baffled by anything identified as verse. He has the tone of Whitman, the rhythm of Carlos Williams.

Siobhán Mc Laughlin
Carl Sandburg is one of my favourite poets and since this edition of his poetry was so cheap (as compared to the other collections) I snapped it up.

But as it showcases most of Sandburg's earlier work, it was a bit of a hit and miss. I loved the short poems (Sandburg is one of the best at short imagist poems if you ask me) the likes of 'Fog' and 'Under The Harvest Moon', 'Joy' and 'Back Yard', but not so much the longer narrative voice poems, eh nah. As with all early collections of poetry, the
H. Anne Stoj
Jun 01, 2007 H. Anne Stoj rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
This is probably my favorite collection of Sandburg's poetry, though I like so much of his work that it's hard to decide in truth. Living outside of Chicago and being familiar with it and with the prairieland as well, the images always strike home. For years I drove downstate, passed endless twists of barbed wire, corn, bleached barns and Sandburg always came to mind. He comes to mind often when I'm in the city. Particularly when I'm on the train there and watching the towns pass by before reach ...more
Apr 09, 2014 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Muscular, moving, and heartfelt poetry, filled with observations and images that kept this reader up late at night to finish the book. Sandburg, to whom we owe so much, gets lost in the roll call of the greats these days. He is mentioned; nodded at, more like, but we'd be wiser, in these times of turmoil, inchoate distress, and inequality, to slow down and give Father Carl another look. His poetry more than holds up; we are all standing on it in American letters this very day.
Robbie Pruitt
Aug 29, 2012 Robbie Pruitt rated it it was amazing
Chicago Poems, by Carl Sandburg, is an amazing collection of poetry.

Mr friend Janeen recently visited Chicago and took some brilliant photos. After looking at them, I felt as if I was there. Though I have never been to Chicago, the reality of the place was clearly and beautifully presented in her photography.

This is the case with Chicago Poems as well. In Chicago poems, Carl Sandburg snaps beautiful and poetic pictures of Chicago and her people. We get a glimpse of humanity and travel back in ti
Jun 03, 2016 Madeline rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
A short collection of poems about Chicago, immigration, war, and a plethora of random topics. Some of these poems feel like walking into a room while Sandburg is in the middle of a monologue, and I have no clue what he’s going on about, but he’s very into it and some of the lines make the sides of my mouth turn up - either pretending to get it, or enjoying the word choice.
Mar 19, 2008 Joe rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: shake hands with simple poetry
Shelves: poetry
I lost my notes for this book and I'm pissed about that. From what I can see, Sandburg stands somewhere between the populism of Whitman and that of Phil Levine. He's at his best when employing an expansive line and listing away. Yet, pointing the way to Levine, his enthusiasm is more tempered than Whitman's, his embrace a little more stiff and a little less subversive. His poems are shorter than Whitman's and the non logical leaps that the lists allow are a little less surprising. The last half ...more
Jul 04, 2016 Marie rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
I won't add Sandburg to my list of favorite poets just yet, but this was a quite enjoyable volume of poems. My favorites were "Under a Hat Rim", "To a Contemporary Bunkshooter", "Fog", "Choose", "Fight", "A Sphinx", "Who Am I?", "June", "Poppies", and "The Junk Man". I didn't care much for "Pearl Fog" until I had read and liked "Last Answers", which references "Pearl Fog".
Greg Bem
Dec 22, 2015 Greg Bem rated it it was amazing
I felt my insides harden and spasm in chasms of awareness bearing the brunt of the American transformation.
Oct 03, 2014 Brianna rated it liked it
So many good poems in here, and so many dull ones too. I liked the collection of "Chicago Poems" and "War Poems" best, and didn't care for the collection called "Fogs and Fires" (too saccharine, too many colors, especially purple; the world isn't as purple as you think it is, Carl Sandburg).
Michael Tarpinian
Good poems but only the first few were Chicago centered there. Knew we left the city when sharks appeared.
Feb 23, 2014 Jess rated it liked it
Recommended to Jess by: American Lit
Certainly one of the more bitter, honest poetry volumes I've read in a long time.

Refreshing, actually.
J. Whitley
Mar 31, 2016 J. Whitley rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, poetry
So far, it's my favorite book of Sandburg's.
Adrian Fulneczek
Jan 15, 2015 Adrian Fulneczek rated it it was amazing
Faces tired of wishes
Empty of dreams...
Feb 13, 2013 Emma rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I really have always adored Sandburg's geographical poetry, and the poetry he does about people. There's really something about "Chicago" that gets me - the fact that it is what everyone says it is, it's awful and terrible but it's also proud and shining and good, and that resonates with me and how I feel about my own hometown.

I hadn't realized, however, how much of an impact his war poems would have. It's not the same sense of death in the trenches that other WWI poets (like, say, Owen or Sasso
Sep 05, 2015 Maggie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Yes to everything in this book
Jason Gibbons
Mar 18, 2015 Jason Gibbons rated it really liked it
Snatch off the gag from thy mouth, child,
And be free to keep the silence.
Tell no man anything for no man listens,
Yet hold thy lips ready to speak.

3.5 stars
Chris Johnson
Sep 15, 2010 Chris Johnson rated it it was amazing
The "Nigger" usage and black stereotyping aside, lol, this is a hell of a book of prose. Short and sweet, but very complex at times where a 10 line poem will take you 3, 4 minutes to divulge via the strength of metaphor. Carl Sandburg obviously a racist, I could see meant "well" I guess writing of black folk in his poems. But hell, this was 1916! for goodness sakes, lol, every white person was pretty much racist then. But still, Sandburg was top 5 or so, maybe even higher, of WORLD poets of his ...more
Carl Sandburg's Chicago poems are iconic and depict Chicago during the Industrial Revolution as a big city earning its name. This collection would work well with high school students studying the era as well as in a poetry unit study imagery and tone. After students have analyze Sandburg's poems, the could go on a field trip and visit the various areas of the city that Sandburg was referring to and compare their current state. They could then compare the two and create their own works based upon ...more
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Carl August Sandburg was an American writer and editor, best known for his poetry. He won two Pulitzer Prizes, one for his poetry and another for a biography of Abraham Lincoln. H. L. Mencken called Carl Sandburg "indubitably an American in every pulse-beat".

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“Give me hunger, pain and want,
Shut me out with shame and failure
From your doors of gold and fame,
Give me your shabbiest, weariest hunger!

But leave me a little love.”
“I cannot tell you now;
When the wind's drive and whirl
Blow me along no longer,
And the wind's a whisper at last -
Maybe I'll tell you then
some other time.”
More quotes…