Friday, September 16, 2016

POTW - Carl Sandburg's Chicago (1914)

This week's poem of the week is no longer under United States copyright, having been first published over 100 years ago.

But instead of reproducing the whole text here, it would be more fun for you to see the text as it was first printed in 1914,  in the Chicago magazine Poetry, edited by Harriet Monroe. The Poetry Foundation website, which today provides on-line archives of the magazine, has evolved from a century of publication of Poetry and generous financial support. They also host a favorite poetry project, to which you will find a link below.

This interpretation of the poem also does it justice, though not all of the illustrations are from Chicago.

Of course, to get the full impact of this poem you need to remember what Chicago in 1914 was like. The population of the city had exploded during the prior century (from 4000 people approximately in 1840 to well over 1,000,000 in 1890), and the waves of new immigrants kept coming. For men, manual labor was relatively easy to find: in the stockyards, on the railroads, in the steel mills. Luckily, for the wives and children of these immigrants, there were some prominent citizens of Chicago with a social conscience—they tended to gravitate around Hull House, founded by Jane Addams and Helen Gates Starr in 1889 (for more on Jane Addams, consult links here, This was the city that reversed the flow of water in the Chicago River in 1900, to avoid having further epidemics of typhoid and cholera.

Learn a bit more about Carl Sandburg by consulting the following links:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel reads "Chicago" for the Favorite Poem Project ( ).

"Radical Sandburg" at Modern American Poetry (

Carl Sandburg on PBS, Public Broadcasting (Nov 10, 2012).

Take a virtual tour of the Carl Sandburg home (

Sandburg's coverage of riots in Chicago in 1919 (Chicago Magazine, Feb 6, 2013).