Study Guide

Chicago What's Up With the Title?

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What's Up With the Title?

"Chicago" is a poem all about Chicago (no surprises there). The title is right on the nose. And we mean this almost-kind-of-literally. It alerts us to the fact that the poem is not just about Chicago, but that it's actually addressed to Chicago. The poem is actually an apostrophe (an address to an absent, dead, abstract, or unreal entity) by an unnamed speaker to the city itself. The entire poem is pretty much one big personification of the city, in which the speaker makes Chicago come alive. By the end of the poem, the city has shoulders, a heart, ribs, a pulse—so, why not a nose?

If it did have a nose, we'd bet it would be kind of a smashed-in, crooked thing, as if this city-dude has seen his fair share of fights and had that nose broken a time or two. Still, for Sandburg, that's something to celebrate. More than the culture or the beauty of the city, the star of this show—which gets top billing in the title—is celebrated for its attitude: tough-minded, energetic, and not afraid to get dirt under its fingernails.

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