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Chicago Poems

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  2,173 ratings  ·  102 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 Cont
Paperback, 88 pages
Published May 20th 1994 by Dover Publications (first published 1916)
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4.03  · 
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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
Nov 21, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2010, in-en, poetry
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: library, 2018
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
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
Tries to do for Chicago as Whitman did for America. Top tips: Skyscraper & At a Window.
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
C. Hollis Crossman
Feb 13, 2012 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 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 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...
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
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.
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
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 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
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
Dec 25, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sandburg's Chicago Poems was originally published in 1916 and does have some very antiquated, stereotyped language.

The poems in the main are about Chicago and do give a sense of the city and the people with in it. A mixture of critiques on government and society, besides musings about ordinary workers, the buildings, the docks, the sellers, the mob, and so on. Interesting, but quite dated in some parts.
Jun 05, 2017 rated it did not like it
RFL 2018 I am not a big fan of poetry, so I did not find this short volume enjoyable. However, seeing as Sandburg is probably the most famous poet from Illinois and we live not far from Galesburg, it's an absolutely appropriate choice for this year's Read for a Lifetime List. I find his poems to be mostly depressing and also reflective of the racism and sexism of his time. I can appreciate his themes of disdain for the businessmen and government and his admiration of the working man.
Tom Ford
Feb 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Overall I liked this book of poems. Who Am I was my favorite. Sandburg also really captures the experience of riding trains in the Midwest and also the contrast that any true Midwesterner feels existing between the city and the country. He understands the struggle of the modern worker. His war poems sort of bored me and some of his language usage I personally find offensive but the man is still obviously a master and knows the city of Chicago intimately.
judy whale
Jan 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent selection of poemd

My favorite book of poetry. Sandburg says more with fewer words than any poet I know. So much sandburg knows about life and he's got the words that convey his understanding
Hugo Esteban
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Some poems in this book are dated, but the rest are solid observation of not just the day to day life of Chicago and Chicagoland residents, but also observations of human nature in general that go beyond that part of the Midwest.
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
I have now read 2 of Sandburg’s books, so I can check that off my bucket list of reading material. I only liked this one slightly more than Rootabaga Stories- mostly because I feel like I’m dealing with a sane author in this book :). Still not really enjoying the writing.
Janette Schafer
A time capsule of poetry

Carl Sandburg was a master of poetry in the early 20th century. This collection is his love letter to Chicago. There is however a lot of racist language that I found intolerable, so readers should know that.
Jun 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, read-in-2017
These were delightful. I had no previous experience with Carl Sandburg, so I'm very glad I had the opportunity to pick this up. Loved a few of them, enjoyed most of them, only a handful left me really cold. This made me want to start memorizing a poem a week.
Bruce Fogerty
Sep 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous. I have lived in Chicago for 30 years. This collections of poems, even though it is 100 years old, captures the essence of Chicago and its neighborhoods better than an song, article, picture, or painting. It is little wonder Carl Sandburg is one of America's poets for the ages.
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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.”

Out of your many faces
Flash memories to me
Now at the day end
Away from the sidewalks
Where your shoe soles traveled
And your voices rose and blent
To form the city’s afternoon roar
Hindering an old silence.

I remember lean ones among you,
Throats in the clutch of a hope,
Lips written over with strivings,
Mouths that kiss only for love,
Records of great wishes slept with,
Held long
And prayed and toiled for:

Written on
Your mouths
And your throats
I read them
When you passed by.”
More quotes…