Chief Works Sandburg's poem "Chicago" is self-consciously artless — a brash, assertive statement of place. In 1914, the poem thrust him into national prominence as a modernist poet and image-maker for the laboring class. A rambunctious portrait of a flourishing urban center, the poem makes a vigorous proletarian thrust with its initial images of a butcher, tool maker, harvester, and freight handler. Outside the pre-modern niceties of predictable line lengths and rhyme, the poet ignores scholars and entrepreneurs as he surges toward the city skyline. With crudely forceful, startling figures, he mines the verbal subsoil for the source of Chicago's raw energy and steadying optimism. He applauds its ample frame, personified as a muscular, essentially male pair of shoulders, but balances his realistic assessment by chastising the urban penchant for vice and crime. As though addressing an individual, Sandburg personifies the city as a brutal depriver of women and
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