08 July 2009

Who Am I? Am I A City?

And the junk stood up into skyscrapers and asked:
Who am I? Am I a city? And if I am what is my name?
And once while the time whistles blew and blew again
The men answered: Long ago we gave you a name,
Long ago we laughed and said: You? Your name is Chicago.
Early the red men gave a name to the river,
the place of the skunk
the river of wild onion smell,

- The Windy City, Carl Sandburg

Love Chicago? Love poetry?
Don't know Chicago? Don't know too much about poetry?

Whatever your answer, you should check out the Poetry Foundation's Chicago Poetry Tour.

This is an amazing feature produced by the Poetry Foundation with several tours of Chicago, featuring poetry from many Chicago poets. You can watch the tours online, with audio recordings of poets reading their works about or inspired by the city. Or, you can download the audio to play as you walk through the city. The site also has downloadable maps. There are 22 tours of downtown Chicago landmarks and surrounding neighborhoods. You can listen to Carl Sandburg reciting The Windy City, or Gwendolen Brooks, reciting her We Real Cool, as well as readings by other poets, writers, and critics. You can navigate to specific poems or poets, rather than navigating via the tour map.

I often think that New York is my favorite city in the world, but if I give it 'Best in World' title, I think it could be exempted from the competition for the Best in US laurels, a title which would then, undoubtedly, go to Chicago.

I'd love to see similar features of other cities, featuring snippets of poetry and prose of and about each city. Hmmm...this has me pondering what I would choose to include if this was done for my hometown. I think that's a future blog post.


Kay said...

I have come across both of those poets - but didn't know that they were linked to Chicago. Interesting ... a great idea.

Anonymous said...

I'll have to find time to give that some proper attention! I don't think there's a London equivalent - pity.

Emily Barton said...

Oh yes, Chicago most definitely wins Best in US laurels. I've often (not always, but often) been quite disappointed by The Best in World city when it shows up in poetry.

Cam said...

Kay, There are about 20 -25 poets featured on the site. Check it out.

DWW - Oh there would be so many possibilities for a similar site for London. Isn't there a walk along the Thames where there are bits of poetry in the sidewalk? Maybe somewhere near the NT? I remember this from when I was in London as a student in '80, but I don't recall seeing something like this on trips on recent years.

Em - Hadn't really thought about NYC in poetry, at least not as a placename, poetry about the place specifically. But, the Chicago site doesn't just feature poems about Chicago places; it is also poems written by poets who lived and wrote there, but other themes. In that regard, I think that one could do this about just aobut anyplace. Hmmm -- maybe that is a challenge: create a virtual tour of your city, region, or country. If you're game for that, I'll make some sort of 'challenge' on my blog.

lily said...

Cam -- this is an incredible resource. Thank you for mentioning it! I am a huge fan of Gwendolyn Brooks and heard her read in Chicago before she died. xoxo

Emily Barton said...

As you can see, I have not been keeping up with blog comments too well these days. I love your idea, but for others, not me (I suck when it comes to writing poetry).