“& this is the music;
the kids of Chicago have eyes that are older
than the deepest pain in the world
& they run with bare feet over south/side streets
shimmering with shivers of glass
razors that never seem to cut their feet;
they dance in & out of traffic—“
These few lines from Quincy Troupe Jr.’s “Chicago (for Howlin’ Wolf)” embody the very essence of youth within the great city of Chicago. Strong, ruthless, and unyielding are a few characteristics that come to mind while reading this passage. The famous poem describes the “city of the big shoulders,” Chicago, in all of its dirty glory.
As I read this poem, a sense of excitement fills my soul and it makes me feel restless in a way. Here, Troupe describes the city and its inhabitants, never stopping and always living as much as they possibly can. The poem is inspirational in how it states that although the city and its people face dark and challenging times filled with uncertainty and doubt, they keep pushing through and never give up. The poem fills me with hope and I believe that whenever I feel as though there is a “wind/blade” that is “so sharp & cold” cutting through my very essence and world, I know that I will be able to push through the pain and live on.
I believe that Troupe’s poem is also an homage to the city of Chicago and its’ unyielding strength and industrialism. Although Troupe discusses the gritty and sometimes cruel city, his approach is softer and more musical than Carl Sandburg’s in “Chicago.” Troupe’s poem definitely embodies influences of the folk and blues musical styles and the way in which the poem flows reminds me of a Van Morrison or Neil Young tune, which I particularly like. Another aspect of Troupe’s poems that is so enjoyable is how he puts sparks of energy into his words and messages. He writes with such passion and emotion, which is truly necessary to create a good poem.
Troupe was certainly capable of writing a good poem. In fact, he wrote numerous excellent poems that allowed him to receive many awards. The famous poet dropped out of college, joined the Army and traveled to France. He met many influential individuals, experienced different cultures, and found himself through enlightening events. Troupe began carrying a notebook around with him, much like my favorite Jack Kerouac, after he was advised to do so by the French existentialist writer Jean-Paul Sartre. He moved to the West Coast at one point in his life and actually gave poetry readings on the beach, accompanied by Jimi Hendrix (how completely awesome is that?!). Troupe also struggled through many difficult and trying experiences in his life related to racism and difference. However, he was able to overcome these obstacles and grow from them.
Troupe’s life, filled with countless amazing experiences, inspires me to not be afraid to live, and in fact to live my life as fully as I possible can. I am inspired to live with sparks of energy flying off of me, and like a kid of Chicago, razors never seem to cut my feet as I go dancing in and out of traffic: the traffic of my life.
A sample of Troupe's genius: