For many years and centuries, Chicago has won over the hearts of many writers and poets. This is probably one of the primary reason why there is a lot of literature varying from short stories to poems and even essays with the aim of pinning the city down. Some writers have captured it as an exciting, beautiful city, others as a busy city while some have brought up its cruel and selfish nature. In this paper, I am going to look at Chicago through the eyes of Bill Granger's essay, "City of Words" and Carl Sandburg's poem: "Chicago." These two writers are among many who have written about Chicago, and though their works were done at different times, they do agree in some opinions about Chicago as well as differ in others.
Following Bill Granger's excellent introduction to the city, one can tell that the author's feeling towards Chicago are those of admiration and love. His introduction might be short only having a single sentence, but any reader who comes across this essay can capture and create a vivid picture of the city through this author's word. Granger even mentions that there is no other town in the world that can be compared to Chicago. He wrote, "The city awakens with the sunrise, stretches in the light of the sun that streams from the east through the lake that has n limit, and there is nothing else like it in the whole globe" (Line 1). It is such unique city, so lost in its self-concern and self-flattery and self-knowledge, that it cannot accept any other opinion being worthwhile. (Lines1-2).
According to Granger, the city of Chicago comes as it is, (what you see is what you get kind of city). The city itself is lost in a world of self-admiration, self-love, and vanity and it goes without saying that it is utterly beautiful and cold. Nature itself couldn't agree more on the perfection of the city.
In his essay, Bill Granger did puts to account and mentions the works of various poets and their views towards Chicago. Granger says Nelson Algren, who was supposedly the second great poet in Chicago. In Algren's eyes, the city of Chicago was seen as a woman who spent so much time in the bar drinking with a broken nose below her wide, sad eyes who had seen too much the world had to offer. In short, Chicago is a sad drunk woman tired of the rest of the world.
Therefore, as long as writers understand that the city of Chicago is in love with itself, everything will be all right, and they will be permitted to hang around in the town as they drop their adorations like a broken necklace dropping its pearls.
Granger further states that the politicians in Chicago treat the city as a harlot, slapping her around in attempts of making her change her looks as they wonder how much money she can rake up once she follows their orders. The poets and writers remain sentimental about her, even when they pretend to tell the harsh truth about the city.
According to Granger, in almost every article written about Chicago, writers always take a part of the city's innocence. For example, he talks of the work of Theodore Desire's work "Maggie" whereby Chicago is portrayed as a town full of drunkenness and unjust practices towards the poor. Granger does not hide his admiration for the happy and boastful nature of Chicago even though it is in a savage land and all that surrounds it is emptiness. He, however, points out Chicago's wild side and mentions that though many artists are attracted to it, it has no place for old writers and poets but rather embraces the young ones.
When reading Carl Sandburg's poem, one is led to believe they are pouring out their emotions and feelings about the city. When reading the first few sentences of Sandburg's poem, "Hog Butcher, producer of tools, Wheat stacker, Player with Rails and Freight Handler to the Nation, fiery, husky, fraying, a big shouldered town,"(Lines 1-5) one would be led to think that Sandburg resents the city due to his choice of words describing it. For sure one would be forgiven to think so as these particular words do not occur as a direct form of praise for the city. In fact, when you read deeper into his poem, Sandburg agrees with the critics of the city who refer to the town as crooked, wicked and brutal. His agreements to these statements made by Chicago's critics are based on the fact that he has witnessed prostitution, crimes and injustices happen in the city. However, Sandburg's poem comes to a twist of events when the author turns on the critics of Chicago "And after answering I turn back to those who criticize my town, and I sneer back at them saying (line 9). To every reader's surprise, this poem takes a turn from criticizing Chicago to praising it!
Every reader expects any poem written to praise a city to start with sweet words and praise. A great example is Bill Granger's essay "City of Word." In Granger's article, his admiration of the city is pretty clear from the first line. Sandburg's love for Chicago becomes evident as one reads deeper in his poem. Line 9 is the game changer of this whole text, and in my opinion, Sandburg choice of words in the first stanza of his poem are evidence that though Chicago may not be all good, though it has some negative characteristics, his love for the city remains high. To some extent, I would call it tough love. In fact, when one reads the first stanza with a different approach, one may even get the impression of Chicago as an active and hardworking city. Even Bill Granger through himself acknowledges the fact that Sandburg love for Chicago is greater than the city deserves.
Bill Granger's and poet Carl Sandburgs seem to agree on the opinion that Chicago city takes pride in self-admiration. Sandburg's poem gives a more detailed information "Come and point out another town with head lifted high taking pride to being alive and rough and sharp and tricky"(line 10). The author illustrates that though the city may have experienced some bad times, it remains high and proud of its accomplishments. Granger and Sandburg also agree on the fact that Chicago is a unique city. In his work, Granger wrote that no other city was fit to be compared with Chicago and in his poem Sandburg in line 10 and 11 "...here is a tall, great slugger set clearly against the small, fragile cities" (line 11) Sandburg acknowledges the same. These two lines can also be interpreted as Sandburgs response to Chicago's critics as he tries to point out its strengths. Granger and Sandburg seem to agree again on the opinion that the city is what it means it has no surprises or hidden agendas.
Sandburg also shows the spirit of the Chicago man as that of an independent, hard worker who cares less of what destiny holds. He also writes that even in tough times the Chicago man still manages to laugh. In a short stanza with short phrases"... The building, collapsing, rebuilding" (Line 17) the author shows how the city manages to go through good and tough times and how it can recollect itself. This opinion is in agreement with Granger's views on how the city stands tall and boasts amidst being surrounded by emptiness. On his last Stanza, he ends with the same words he wrote on the first stanza. In my opinion, the authors motive was to put emphasis on Chicago being a busy city.
Both Granger and Sandburg have positive and negatives views on Chicago. However Granger's work is more extensive than that of Sandburg's, and he can provide readers with not only his perspectives on the city but also other poets and writers views. Even though he acknowledges the beauty and uniqueness of the city, he does not mince his words on its negative side. Even though his poem is not as long as that of Granger's, Sandburg's love for the city comes from a bit stronger as he shuts down haters of the city.
Granger, Bill. "City Of Words." Chicago Tribune (2017): n. pag. Web. 5 June 2017.
Sandburg, Carl. "Chicago." Poetry Foundation (2017): n. pag. Web. 5 June 2017.
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