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Top 100 or so Poems -- "Chicago" by Carl Sandburg

Carl Sandburg was an American poet of Swedish descent - a man who spent his formative years growing up in the late 19th century midwest as a milkman, farmhand on the wheat plains of Kansas, hotel porter, bricklayer, a soldier in the Spanish-American war (fought mostly mosquitos in Puerto Rico), and in around 1919 he became a journalist for the Chicago Daily News.

A great American biographer, novelist, journalist and free verse poet, Sandburg spent two years traveling the country as a hobo, learning folk songs and thereby forming his poetic spirit and socialist political views.

The recipient of 3 Pulitzer Prizes, he received his Pulitzer prizes in Poetry for his collections "The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg" and "Corn Huskers".

The following poem is widely considered to be his greatest work, and contains a most famous description of his beloved city, Chicago - which can be found in the first verse.

Enjoy the work of this unorthodox midwestern american poet:


By Carl Sandburg

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;

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your
painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I have
seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women
and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this my
city, and I give them back the sneer and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be
alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here is a tall
bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities;
Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted
against the wilderness,
Bulding, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse, and under his
ribs the heart of the people,
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked,
sweating, pround to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.


  1. This is vintage Sandburg and owes some to Walt Whitman. This would make my top 100 too. Nice pick.

  2. I love Carl Sandburg ... "Chicago Poems" completely blew me away. Amazing poems about World War I too.