Loving Elgin through Poetry

We had our first virtual Poetry Celebration on February 13th, 2022. We had our second in person Poetry Celebration on February 12th, 2023. Local poets shared their poems. You can read them here and/or watch the videos!

Send it to elginpoetlaureateproject@gmail.com and we’ll post it here. All ages welcome, can be anonymous!



My neighborhood
By Danise Habun

I love to listen to Elgin’s music of many languages and observe its mosaic made with hues of faces from many different places.

A cacophony of neighborhood sounds greets me while I make daily rounds.

Echoes of Salsa, Bachata, R&B, Soul, Rock & Roll and Oud surround, especially in warm weather when families gather outside together. Cooking BBQ and native dishes that make my street smell oh so delicious.

Generations from around our world make up the puzzle of my neighborhood. We greet one another in our native tongues. That’s how community conversations have begun. Many voices offer many songs. Elgin’s diversity makes us strong.

The Turret
Patricia Harkin

It was the turret:
Really, that’ s what it was
Shaped like an onion,
With leaded glass windowpanes
All the way up from the porch to the attic

It called to us from a realtor’s website
On a New Year’s morning
At a new stage of our life
A time to retire, but not to rest.

Soon, we came in person
To a place called Elgin
To see up close
How the sunlight dances
In infinite variations
Through those leaded windows. 

And we saw for ourselves the gold shag carpeting and orange linoleum.
And we stepped in the puddles the leaky roof made.
And heard the scratching of mice in the cabinets.
And saw their dainty droppings.
We found the carpenter ants in the wall
And smelled the recently departed ferret.
And felt the wonky foundation
Every time we crossed the porch.

We took them on:
The turret and the ferret
The mice and the men who came to fix things.

And Elgin took us on
The City to Watch watched over us
As we built new foundations ,
And made a new roof for the turret.

And our orchestra made music .
Not just in the Hemmens
But in parks and back yards and hospitals and bandshells
And even (after the roof was fixed)
in our own parlor.

We listen now, content under our turret
While the light dances,
Here in the City of Peace. 

Beyond the Books

Walking through the revolving door, I see so much more
Than just patrons, like customers at a store
Each brings with them a story, unique
One we hope to hear them speak
For in this place of tales, coffee and nooks
The people, you see, bring as much as the books.

Like the City of Peace, in which this place dwells,
Old and new, the stories it tells –
From a history of art deco, the Tower Building shows
Stories of ice houses along the Fox and more
Settlers who came with a diversity of life to share
Looking for that place where they could give and find care –
Newspapers, microfiche and technology combine
To allow the old and new both their space and time
Crossing borders, at the Literacy Connection, hable ingles
Beyond the barriers of color and more the stories you see
Bring us together here, stepping away from the other,
Reading, learning, listening so we can say brother.

This perspective you see, from the institution voted a community resource
Emphasis on community, diversity, a place for all.
It’s work for me each day
But so much more
For what I can see
At this library
Gail Borden, like the city of Elgin, City of Peace,
growing, changing, adopting, adapting
understanding to know is to grow.


Seem like the word is adversity
When the call is for diversity
But from the bottom of the well
Is where the truth most often dwell

Where art is alive
Where passion can thrive
People feel as if they strive
Hard work, no jive
But, might do more
than just

From Wing street to Spring Street
From Gifford to Clifford
City in the suburbs our call
A wide net cast for all

Guns down, hands up leads the way
Moving forward, beyond today
Schoolhouse make you say
No more,
No longer can
Herdrich – Diversity - 2

Visual, visceral, verbal and virtual
Voices raised the cry for mutual
Stepping away from usual
Create a new ritual

Voices of anger and rage
Alongside compassion and sage
Passion-filled expression
Alongside racial confession
One joint session

From Al’s, Paul’s and Public House
Old favorites many do espouse
Welcome Kubo, Vern’s, Chapala
Ready to give a new place a holla

Riding the elevator in The Tower
Festival Park, hot day, cool shower
Walton Island, Hemmens and more
Old and the new, together we score

Mi casa, su casa, que pasa
A question at first but thenReflecting the spirit again
Of welcoming, sharing
Bondadoso, caring

Events big and small, welcome to all
Gracias often heard, becomes a familiar word
As blending becomes the call
A reply, ain’t no thaing or de nada
For all, we hope Elgin, posada

Elgin, City of Peace,
Working together to earn
The slogan, make it more
Build it up
City of peace
Beyond adversity

A View from the Mike and Fran Alft River Room

Peering through the windows to below,
the winter light angles off the frozen river.
This white light dominates,
bouncing off the snow, off the mottled ice,
off the overhanging clouds,
brilliant, just near blinding.
Geese stroll, not swimming,
lapping water now tamed,
they peck occasionally at the ice,
finding frozen morsels.
No need to travel south
as was their ancient story.
The Elgin folks give just enough
to maintain their webbed glory.

Inside the Mike and Fran Alt River Room

The fire inside warming
Keeping out the cold.
Book in hand a story
Like none I’ve read before.
The quiet here makes a sound
That we have heard before.
The nature of the life we lead
How could we ask for more?

Imperfectly Wonderful

© 2023 Elizabeth Stanley King

This home, this city on the edge of a metropolis,
This imperfectly wonderful place!
A haven founded by abolitionists,
still filled with challenges.

This place we love dearly, and deeply!

It has been said that we come to love
not by finding perfection, but by learning
to see the imperfect perfectly.
Elgin draws us in, tugging at our heart,
because it is imperfectly perfect!
Our home has many treasures.
However, where there are challenges,
We create possibility!

Seizing the opportunity,

becoming a part of the fix,

a part of the mix.


          the people,


Becoming One Out of Many
Releasing the light we carry.

Creating a home that embraces
the beautiful spice of life.

Our Home
           Our Heart
                         Our Elgin

Loving Elgin: A Valentine For Our Home

Elgin, our gorgeously delightful home.
Historic shopping districts and restaurants,
sprinkled with modern locales.
Beautiful parks house nature’s
meandering paths.

Victorian museums showcasing our past.
World-class library attracting tourists,
bringing exciting exhibits.

Elgin, a gorgeous city
split by the winding Fox River,
home to beauty and tranquility
in the midst of a bustling city.

Today, we gather to share our collective love of a city
We all know
and love
as Elgin.

My Block

We love Elgin.
The river, the symphony, the library
The schools
The quaint coffee shops
The people.

We moved to Elgin
To the Northeast Side
Not the Gold Coast
With its beautiful, stately homes.
A newer section.

Before we moved,
We asked neighbors
If they thought we would be welcome
If there were lots of fireworks
Scaring the dog.
You see, I am a rabbi
A visible Jewish presence
The neighbors in our last house
Didn't like that.
They aimed their fireworks at our house.
They aimed their fireworks at the dog!

We were told by our new neighbors
In halting English
Yes, of course you would be welcome.
We are a little scared of the dog.
But what's a rabbi?
It didn't matter.

Our block is a microcosm
One large Indian family
Owning 5 homes
At the end of the block.
They congregate each evening
Sitting together in their driveways
Dazzling saris blowing in the breeze
Shooting the breeze
The younger generation shooting hoops

Several black families
One interfaith Jewish couple
Who always call out a cheery,
"Good morning, Rabbi"
One Muslim family
Growing and sharing their mint
With the neighbors
(But don't let that dog walk on their lawn!)

One Evangelical Christian family
With two little kids who play with our dog.
He's Chinese. She's from Michigan
They met at the University of Michigan
"Go blue,"
My husband cheers on football Saturdays
Our neighbor covets my Judaica library.
They all pray for my health.

On summer nights
The smell of Indian food wafts over the neighborhood
Chapati Indian bread drying on those driveways
On beautiful Indian bedspreads
It smells like the Jerusalem spice market.
It smells like home.
It is.

We love our block.
We love the people.
We love Elgin.

Rabbi Margaret Frisch Klein

Postcard from Burnidge Forest Preserve


I am
the dandelion seeds
whisked away
by your wish. I am the flower dust
painting your fingertips
citrus. I am lemonade. I am sunshine
mapping heartlines in your hands
I am the future they tell. Let me tell you a secret.
Press your ear to a seashell, you’ll find
the tides. Press your ear to a seatbelt, you’ll feel
roads rumbling by. Press your ear to my sky
hear my cicadas, my chickadees, my cool breeze
listen to me. I am your own voice
buried deep, waiting for light to finally


in Burnidge Forest Preserve
I’ve never seen so many
dragonflies. So many buzzing wings
humming like a guitar string
plucked beneath the dusk. The sky’s the color
of a clementine. It’s supposed to be sweet
but this summer tastes bitter. Far too many friends
set like the sun on the other side of the pines
and I’m left with the dusk, with the light they left behind
with the dragonflies. Alone, but not so lonely

when hundreds upon hundreds of wings take flight
shimmering with what little is left of the light.


drips down
like paint.

drop by drop
leaf by leaf.

my boots.

for a cold wind
on a whim
scattering embers.

the musky smell
of a million
& one lost things.

Each leaf
lets more light
burn through
these branches.

to a sky
bright and blue and


We step
no - we STOMP
drunken trolls
stumbling through snow.

We breathe
disturbing the peace
our grey HUFFS
polluting the air like exhaust.

We “GASP!”
Frozen in our tracks
a deer stares us
down, beady black eyes
boring into brown.

We bow
our head, apologizing
for the slight
or perhaps, praying we won’t
S L I P  on thin ice.

We walk
the walk of SHAME
to our 9 to 5
our natural habitat
: civilized.

Postcard from Mozzafiato (Out of Business)

We’re sorry
we can’t stay
can’t make
any more frappes
can’t scoop
any more gelato
can’t open
the door, can’t let
the outside
in - not the snow on your boots
not the icy wind
not even your breath fogging
the other side of the glass
blurring the past.

You can’t sit
at that table by the window
where you lovebirds
had your first date. You wanted to kiss
the whipped cream on their lips
but you saved your smooch in exchange
for a little something called privacy
somewhere far less peopley than our café.

We’re sorry
we couldn’t stay.
We’re sorry
love didn’t last,
but we hope
you found something sweet
however brief
it may be.

Ode to Trucker

small but mighty cardigan corgi
his days far from ordinary
here at Gail Borden Library!

After all, how many dogs
pilot a rocket at our Take Flight exhibit?
Or take a selfie with a donut plush
at Culinary Curiosity? Or score a home run
at Sox vs. Cubs: Chicago Civil Wars!

How many dogs sport
a Cubs bandana? Or carry a business card?
Or read letters from kids through our
Write to Rover program? Do you like ice cream?
asks Maddie. Are you allergic to cats?
asks Matt. If you aren’t, do you like to chase them?

I remember reading to you
writes Miles. Will you come back?

At long last
Read to Rover comes back.
At long last
kids can cuddle up with a good book
and a small but mighty
cardigan corgi. One young writer said it best;
in their letter, all they wrote was this:

Dear Trucker, I love you.

Gareth's Introduction


Painted Ladies
To someone unfamiliar with the term, “painted ladies” conjurs up images of women dressed to the nines with rouged cheeks, eyelids tinged blue or purple’ with thick black eyeliner, false eyelashes, and crimson lips.

This poem is about Elgin’s “painted ladies,” not women but houses!

Painted Ladies
By Gareth Mann

Painted ladies are so pretty.
A crowning glory of our city
They win awards every year
making it absolutely clear
that Elgin can compete
A complete paint job takes much time
Intricate patterns of multi colored hues
adorn majestic homes
A painstaking task to do it well
Armed with scaffolds and ladders
Meticulous with every brushstroke

Smaller homes take their cue
echoing the trend
Two colors of paint just won’t do
It’s a joy to drive around town
finding homes of many colors
They grace our city with their beauty
honoring history with a contemporary flair
Just another reason to love Elgin


Garth's Conclusion