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Chicago Poems

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  2,306 ratings  ·  119 reviews
Paperback, 88 pages
Published May 20th 1994 by Dover Publications (first published 1916)
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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
Jan 08, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetshere
Monday night just before bed I read a hundred pages of Dos Passos. It was only yesterday I elected to go this direction, the somewhat noted Chicago Poems. Whereas USA is a thousand pages of modernist poetic detail, the Chicago Poems are unfortunately poses, hokum, and “‘typifying' speeches"---which do little in terms of image or evocation. I am not sure annotation or critical reflection could salvage my experience, alas even the final reading was delayed due to our watching Terrence Malick rumin ...more
Nov 21, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: in-en, poetry, 2010
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
Apr 10, 2011 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.
Jan 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
They will say
Of my city the worst that men will ever say is this:
You took little children away from the sun and the dew,
And the glimmers that played in the grass under the great sky,
And the reckless rain; you put them between walls
To work, broken and smothered, for bread and wages,
To eat dust in their throats and die empty-hearted
For a little handful of pay on a few Saturday nights.

Sandburg described quite starkly and poignantly the faces tired of wishes, empty of dreams.

Jan 15, 19
* Maybe
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, library
Over Christmas, while visiting family in Indianapolis, I stopped in Half-Price Books. I’d already planned to get this year’s books from the library, but I hadn’t arranged for one before leaving town, and I wanted to make sure I had something in hand from my reading list to get started with. I found a hardcover copy of “Seinfeldia.” It was early in the day — I had hours to kill before dinner with two of my sisters — and I settled down in front of the Classics and Poetry section. My mind was hunge ...more
Chunyang Ding
Aug 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
I'm not entirely sure how to consume collections of poetry - in the past, I had always either looked up individual occasional poems, or dissected them for English courses. More than that, it felt almost sacrilegious to read a collection of poems rooted so deeply in Chicago and the Midwest, while staying indoors in that very city, in self-isolation.

Despite those stumbling blocks, I found Sandburg's poems to be beautifully written, especially for the common people. The imagery, themes, and langua
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
Tries to do for Chicago as Whitman did for America. Top tips: Skyscraper & At a Window. ...more
Connie  Kuntz
Feb 19, 2015 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
Feb 24, 2013 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
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Going to admit to having somewhat read this more as prose rather than in a slower absorbing fashion appropriate for poetry.

This is my first time reading Carl Sandburg. In the most low sense of a review, I felt I was reading a 1914 urban Walt Whitman, though the tone was appropriately less mellifluous than a rural Whitman and more bold and jagged like the urban landscape Sandburg paints. A lot of depressing poems. A lot of awkward social commentary. A lot regarding WWI. Some very nice rural poem
Nov 28, 2013 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
Feb 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
The jury is still out on whether I like Sandburg or not. What I DO know is that he is very good with words, creating beautiful and memorable images that reveal his heart for industrialism, cities, and the “common man.” This was the first volume in a book of the complete works of Sandburg so… to be continued...
Sep 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Some of the poems spoke to me, like this one:


MANY birds and the beating of wings
Make a flinging reckless hum
In the early morning at the rocks
Above the blue pool
Where the gray shadows swim lazy.

In your blue eyes, O reckless child,
I saw today many little wild wishes,
Eager as the great morning."

But, uff, I guess people felt at liberty to use certain words back then that I wished he hadn't used in places.

Apr 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Being “dated” is a double-edged cutlass here. He pulls you back into that certain time and place, early 20th century Chicago. You can hear the wagons and cars. The saloon laughter. Smell the stockyards. Taste the dust. Sense the echoes of the war. Touch the poverty. But then there’s the “N” word. An artifact in this context, but a limitation nonetheless. It’s not his fault, per se. It just is. But there’s some great stuff in this collection. Worth visiting and revisiting. Just not my very favori ...more
Black Heart Magazine
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
Mar 19, 2008 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
Apr 13, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011
a handful of gems (the first and last series, "chicago poems" and "other days," are the best of the seven) but many of the poems here are wholly average.

sandburg tries to channel whitman here, but even at its best it feels a little sanitized, and a lot of the poems end just as they begin to gain momentum. i'll try another sandburg at some point - probably a late-period book - but this one didn't quite satisfy.
J.M. Hushour
Dec 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The Dover books are always so great: a cursory look at Sandburg's poetry, perhaps best represented here by the title run and his other urban, half-nightmare creations. I consider him one of the most important American poets ever and it's a shame that he seems to have fallen by the wayside over the last few decades. America embodied in dark lyricism. If "The Wire" was a poet, it'd be someone like Carl Sandburg.
Angie Fehl
Jun 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.5 Stars

In the year 1916, Chicago Poems became Carl Sandburg's first published book of poetry. He went on to release three more volumes throughout the 1920s. In 1951, Sandburg was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry for his Complete Poems edition (published in 1950).

Focusing on just Chicago Poems, right out of the gate the featured poem, "Chicago", hits the reader with imagery of a city's grit and grim existence... crime, violence, poems about prostitutes (more of those at the end of the boo
Bernie Gourley
Aug 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: poetry readers.
This collection put Sandburg on the map as a literary figure. It opens with one of his most famous poems “Chicago” (i.e. “HOG Butcher for the World, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat…”) and – as the title suggests – the windy city is a recurring theme throughout the collection, and not just within the first of seven parts of the volume, which is eponymously named. Sandburg takes on the gritty and the glorious of Chicago. The collection includes about 140 poems of various lengths and styles.

The first
Oct 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
My high school English teacher brought in a phonograph one day so that we could hear Carl Sandburg and Robert Frost read their own poetry. That experience stuck with me.

A local theater company recently opened a one-man show of Carl Sandburg, reliving his writing life as a poet, singer and biographer of Abraham Lincoln. https:// . A review:

Chicago Poems, Carl Sandburg’s first collection of a hundred years ago, ser

Ten minutes now I have been looking at this.
I have gone by here before and wondered about it.
This is a bronze memorial of a famous general
Riding horseback with a flag and a sword and a revolver
     on him.
I want to smash the whole thing into a pile of junk to be
     hauled away to the scrap yard.
I put it straight to you,
After the farmer, the miner, the shop man, the factory
     hand, the fireman and the teamster,
Have all been remembered with bronze memorials,
Shaping them on the job
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I've had this collection of Sandburg poems for at least 20 years, but I'm not sure I ever read it all the way through. Now that I live in the town Sandburg was born in (Galesburg, Illinois) my interest in Sandburg is a little higher. Like most collections of poetry, this one contains great poems, good poems, and okay poems.

One thing that is not great about this edition is that no effort was made to keep one page poems on one page. They break across pages all over the place when they wouldn't hav
Jul 08, 2020 rated it it was ok
This collection of poems by Carl Sandburg is okay. It has a wide collection of his work including his most famous poem which is “Chicago.” It has several different periods of collections of his poetry wrapped up in it as well so you can get a wide swath of what he wrote. So as a collection it is good.
I don’t know if Sandburg’s style really does it for me. I appreciate his realism, but the rhythm he uses is too modern for me. In terms of content most of his work comes out his experience of living
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Carl Sandburg is a staple in Illinois (where I reside), and I thought it very appropriate for the committee in charge of the Read for a Lifetime Program to choose this short book of poems.
In the volume, Sandburg describes more than just the city of Chicago -- he describes the people, their challenges, and their lives. Some are heartbreaking, and some just leave you stunned. The book is divided into sections, focusing on Chicago, war, the working class, and more.

One of the poems that stuck with
Kevin Zhou
Dec 30, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: chi-town
I'm usually much more of a prose person than a poetry person, but I figured I would push myself outside of my comfort zone a bit, as well as read something to help me better understand Chicago and its culture. Reading through Carl Sandburg's poetry definitely was a struggle, especially since Sandburg writes in a free verse style which lacks many of the rhyming and metrical features that could otherwise help orient me. His use of free verse does complement his subject matter well - some of his po ...more
Andrea Bastien
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
In honor of National Poetry Month I wanted to do a unit on Chicago Poets with my freshmen. While I had read several pieces from this collection I finally sat down to read the entire 80 pages of it. There are quite a few poems here that are very striking in their sparse yet powerful descriptions of life in the city during the World War I era, most notably “Chicago” which is one of my favorites. But I can’t say I hung on every line. Some of these pieces are very brief, a little repetitive, and mos ...more
Oct 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Sandburg's "Chicago Poems" is a reminder of what poems can do, should do: reflect life as a deeply felt, shared experience whether the subject is a streetwalker ("Harrison Street Court"), a shovelman ("Child of the Romans"), or even a poet ("Last Answers"). His allegiance with the common man is constant; his critiques of worker exploitation and war mentality are pithy and blunt. His is a pre-web world but there's nothing about his verse that feels dated, nostalgic, or faded. He wrote with the bl ...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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