Now, for those of you not paying attention, I'm from Chicago, so the whole "Carl Sandburg thing" is part of my basic wiring, and it was interesting to finally get around to reading these. The first appearance of this collection was in 1916, and the Dover edition is a re-issue of that, with a bit of added biographical material. Needless to say, reading through these descriptive poems from back then is very much like flipping through a volume of old news photography ... showing a city that has long disappeared.
While I was reading this, I was dropping in little bits of paper where I saw things that I thought I should highlight here. As if often the case, going back to the bits of paper, I'm never quite sure what they (indicating a 2-page spread) specifically were indicating (I hate marking up my books, so never write in them). Here are a few quotes, though:
And, of course, the classic:She could see the smoke of the engines get lost down where the streaks of steel flashed in the sun and when the newspapers came in on the morning mail she knew there was a big Chicago far off, where all the trains ran.
- from "Mamie"
Piled against the sly-line taking shapes like the hand of the wind wanted,
- from "Dunes"
From the Shore
A lone gray bird,
Alone in the shadows and grandeurs and tumults
Of night and the sea
And the stars and storms.
Out over the darkness it wavers and hovers,
Out into the gloom it swings and batters,
Out into the pit of a great black world,
Where fogs are at battle, sky-driven, sea-blown,
Love of mist and rapture of flight,
Glories of chance and hazards of death
On its eager and palpitant wings.
Out into the deep of the great dark world,
Beyond the long borders where foam and drift
Of the sundering waves are lost and gone
On the tides that plunge and rear and crumble.
And then one day I got a true look at the Poor, millions of the Poor, patient and toiling; more patient than crags, tides, and stars; innumerable, patient as the darkness of night -- and all broken, humble ruins of nations.
- from "Masses"
The contrasts between the city of Sandburg and the modern Chicago are fascinating ... much the same, but so much different (when was the last coal delivery you had?). Frankly, much of the poetry did not move me, but was more a window through time to an era long gone, but still looking out onto the same streets I walk.HOG Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:
- from "Chicago"
Chicago Poems, being a Dover Thrift Edition (with a cover price of all of $2.00) may be a bit hard to find (without ordering) through your local brick&mortar vendors, but it's certainly one of those things to keep in mind when your Amazon order is a buck or so shy of the magic $25 free-shipping zone!