Chicago Poetry
All photos by Adam Wojtanek

Welcome to the Time Machine

The following collection of poems was written at the time of
Jane Byrne's campaign for Mayor of Chicago. Jane Byrne was elected and became the first female Mayor of a major metropolitan city of the US. There were many other changes taking place in the city at that time too. Chicago is the largest city in the State of Illinois. The State has abolished slavery long before Civil War and gave the country such Presidents as Abraham Lincoln and Barak Obama. Illinois has always played an important role in the implementation of human rights in America. It was the first State to legalize homosexuality long before other States did, and played an important role in the 1960-80s Civil Rights Movement. The first legally operated gay bar in the Nation called Gold Coast was also established on Chicago's Near North Side in 1958. The author hopes the State will set further examples of civil liberties and continue to lead the Nation in the future as it did at some times in the past.

Chicago is also an important music culture center of the world, and
Rush Street and Old Town are important American entertainment centers. Old Town was a great American folk music revival center for an elite group of the bohemian scene in the 1950s and 1960s. It's also where an illegal backhouse tavern operated on Wells Street through the 1970-80s. The tavern was called The Blues Brothers Bar and it was started by John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, better known from their 1980 Blues Brothers movie... Other artists such as Mike Myers, the star of Wayn's World and Austin Powers was a Chicago actor from Old Town's Second City Theatre. Old Town was not just a neighborhood but a state of mind. And one can catch a feel of its spirit as it was in the 1960-70s in some of Mike Myers' films.

Chicago is home of many kinds of American Music such as those represented by the
Sunset Cafe, Blues Brothers and many core American typres of music such as Big Bands, Jazz, Gospel music, Rhytm & Blues, Soul music, Country music (Barn Dance was later called Grand Ole Opre when it moved to Nashville), Chicago Blues, House Music, Acid House music, Hip-Hop (called Chi-town), Pitchfork Media and many more... The Author was inspired by that great spirit of the Windy City and wrote a collection of poems called Chicago Freeze, which he dedicates to the great City of Chicago.

Ambassador West Hotel on State Parkway. Photo by Author 1979

I express my deepest gratitude to the Chicago Public Library Information Center staff and The Art Institute of Chicago for their help, resources and information needed for the final editing of these works.

Perhaps the cocoonisation of modern man comes from North American Winters in such high tech centers as Chicago. The most reminiscent Winters for Chicagoans are probably those with blizzards. It was during such a blizzard in 1978 the Author wrote the Chicago Freeze - a collection of short poems about Chicago. The poems and most photographs on this page were found in the Author's desk. They're like a time machine to the city's Gold Coast area. Hope you enjoy the ride.

The American Poetry Association (Santa Cruz, California) published poems from this collection in American Poetry Anthology, 1982 and Hearts On Fire, 1983 (edited, with introduction, index, and biographical sketches by John Frost).

O, Mother

O, Mother,
Great City,
blizzard stricken,
who rose
off your knees
rolled up
your sleeves,
and said:
You havenít
beaten me yet,


The Sun sets
and marks a statement.
The Moon drops,
and punctuates a sentence.

A New day
begins a new paragraph.
And with each week
a page is written.

Every month
a chapter is finished.
And with every year
a volume added
to the series.

We page our books
with every decade,
and when we reach the end
we learn that we cannot edit.

Chicago Images

Water Tower survived the great fire
See it on the Magnificent Mile.
Walk the length of Astor Street
Popular with Chicagoís friends.
Tour the narrow streets of Old Town*
And meet a hippie or an artist there.
Go to the Loop (the El tracks
that go around Chicago's downtown)
and drop by the Art Institute of Chicago.

More about Old Town

View of Prudential Building from The Art Institute of Chicago.
The historical Route 66 started just behind the Museum
on Lake Shore Drive and Jefferson Boulevard. 

Tallest Buildings

There were days when
We climbed to the top of the Prudential,
It was the tallest building then.
Now its 601 feet
has been surpassed again and again.

After that came The Civic Center,
Today named after Mayor Daley.
The First National Plaza,
with its unique profile, came later,
And it took title of the Tallest fairly.

View of Standard Oil Building from Art Institute of Chicago 

Next was the Sears Tower,
reaching a whapping 1,450 feet.
The second was Standard Oil.
And John Hancock was the third on the list;
though, its antenna reaches 1,456 feet.

Dear Friend
Dedicated to Dennis G.

Why do people drift away
with each year.
Yesterday we were close,
today weíre nowhere near.
Iíve changed much
since those boyhood days.
Yet, those memories I touch
and cherish in many ways.
Baseball games on our street
and biking I remember well,
swimming in the park pool,
and golf at the Woods.
Friends from our block
I miss a lot, you know.
So if you read this,
let me hear fro you.

Oak Street Beach from atop 1400 North Lake Shore Drive 

Rush and Oak

Oak Street Beach,
a triangular shaped
golden sandy shore
with concrete ditches,
is popular with bunnies
and playboys.

Weekends, holidays
and week nights too,
pavements of Rush Street
tourists explore.
And the local whores too.
Rush and Oak rest by day
to awake at night for you.

Rush and Oak from atop John Hancock Building 

Learn and Explore

Have you been to the
Field Museum
or that of ethnic history?
Have you seen the Chicago Art Conservatory
or the Museum of Science and Industry?
How about the Museum of Contemporary Art,
or the Adler Planetarium?

Donít forget the Lincoln Park Zoo
And the Shedd Aquarium.
Visit their halls,
learn and explore
when you're in Chicago.

Lake Shore Drive on the Gold Coast. View of North Street Beach. 

Poem first published in American Poetry Associationís 
Anthology of American Poetry, 1982. 

Winter evenings
shared together,
in Old Town,
on Eugene Street,
by your fireplace
I recall.

Itís raining now.
February rain.
So mesmerizing
to look at
though the window
on Lake Shore Drive

The sounds of burning wood
and our chatter.
Just some happy memories
of Winter evenings with you.

Chicago's Old Town in the 1960s 

Magnificent Mile

Michigan Avenue
is the Magnificent Mile.
Youíll find on it the old,
the new
and those that have
not more then a smile.
Chicagoís Michigan Avenue is magnificent
and not just an ordinary mile.

The Freeze

Itís the freeze
that makes us sneeze;
have a runny nose
and bronchitis.
So, stay home
and keep warm
until the freeze is gone.

Some poems were written at 
The Butterfly in Chicago's Old Town

Chicago's Golden Mile
and Near North Side

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Tiffany and Gucci
on Michigan Ave.
Gucci on Michigan Ave.

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Oak Street Boutiques
A boutique staircase
on Oak Street

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Old mansions
on Schiller & Astor Streets
Old Mansions
on Schiller & Astor Streets

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A very fine hotel
on Near North Side
Michigan Avenue

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The Whitehall Hotel
on Near North Side
A Near North Side

Senator Percy and I on the corner of Rush and Oak in Chicago, 1970s.
I met Sen. Percy in my neighborhood. He was in charge of East European affairs then. 

Poems from Chicago Freeze and photos by the Author
Copyright © 1980 Library of Congress, Washington D.C.

All rights reserved by Author.

The End
"Chicago Freeze"

There are many songs about Chicago. Some that should not be forgotten are Lake Shore Drive by Aliotta, Haynes & Jeremiah written in 1971 and Chicago - We can Change The World by Graham Nash. The later refers to the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, when the Chicago Police stormed anti-Vietnam War demonstrators with brutal force on orders from Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. Some of the lyrics in that song refer to the Chicago Seven trial. The first line of the song refers to Bobby Seale, a black participent of the Demonstration and eighth member of the Chicago Seven group. He was gagged, tied to a chair and later removed from the trial at its early stage. Thus, the eight members of the Chicago Seven were Bobby Seale, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines and Lee Weiner. The Yippie Movement - Youth International Party, a political and more militant offspring of the Hippie Movement was started in Chicago during the Chicago Seven trial.

Festival of Life in Grant Park, Chicago. Photo by Author 1969

Route 66 started at Lake Shore Drive and East Adams Street in Chicago 
and ended where Santa Monica Boulevard meets Ocean Ave. in California. 
Route 66 was also called the Will Rogers Highway. 

The idea of roadside attractions began on Route 66
Get your kicks on Route 66

Listen to "Highway 66" 
by Adam Wojtanek 


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The Chicago River
in downtown Chicago
Downtown, Chicago

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Downtown, Chicago
Wrigley Building
on Michigan Avenue

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IBM Building
and The Sears Tower
The Sears Tower

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Arial view of
Standard Oil Building
Sandburg Village -
a residential complex

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Gold Coast residents
on sundecks
Sunny weekend on
North Street beach

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Panorama of Chicago
Chicago's lakeside

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Navy Pear
in the Windy City
On a Chicago beach


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