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Gwendolyn Brooks

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 4 months ago

The poems we are studying are as follows; for the two poems,

look at the main ideas, the tone, and the characteristics of the poet's style:


A Song in the Front Yard by Gwendolyn Brooks

 I've stayed in the front yard all my life.

I want a peek at the back

Where it's rough and untended and hungry weed grows.

A girl gets sick of a rose.


I want to go in the back yard now

And maybe down the alley,

To where the charity children play.

I want a good time today.


They do some wonderful things.

They have some wonderful fun.

My mother sneers, but I say it's fine

How they don't have to go in at quarter to nine.

My mother, she tells me that Johnnie Mae

Will grow up to be a bad woman.

That George'll be taken to Jail soon or late

(On account of last winter he sold our back gate.)


But I say it's fine. Honest, I do.

And I'd like to be a bad woman, too,

And wear the brave stockings of night-black lace

And strut down the streets with paint on my face.


XV by Gwendolyn Brooks

Men of careful turns, hater of forks in the road,

The strain at the eye, that puzzlement, that awe —

Grant me that I am human, that I hurt,

That I can cry.


Not that I now ask alms, in shame gone hollow,

Nor cringe outside the loud and sumptuous gate.

Admit me to our mutual estate.


Open my rooms, let in the light and air.

Reserve my service at the human feast.

And let the joy continue.  Do not hoard silence

For the moment when I enter, tardily,

To enjoy my height among you.  And to love you

No more as a woman loves a drunken mate,

Restraining full caress and good My Dear,

Even pity for the heaviness and the need—

Fear sudden fire out of the uncaring mouth,

Boiling in the slack eyes, and the traditional blow.

Next, the indifference formal, deep and slow.


Comes in your graceful glider and benign,

To smile upon me bigly; now desires

Me easy, easy; claims the days are softer

Than they were; murmurs reflectively, "Remember

When cruelty, metal, public, uncomplex,

Trampled you obviously and every hour…"

(Now cruelty flaunts diplomas, is elite,

Deliberate, has polish, knows how to be discreet):

Requests my patience, wills me to be calm,


Brings me a chair, but the one with broken


Whispers, 'My friend, no thing is without flaw.

If prejudice is native — and it is — you

Will find it ineradicable — not to

Be juggled, not to be altered at all,

But left unvexed at its place in the properness

Of things, even to be given (with grudging)



We are to hope is that intelligence

Can sugar up our prejudice with politeness.

Politeness will take care of what needs caring.

For the line is there.

And has a meaning. So our fathers said —

And they were wise — we think — At any rate,

They were older than ourselves. And the report


What's old is wise. At any rate, the line is

Long and electric. Lean beyond and nod.

Be sprightly. Wave. Extend your hand and


But never forget it stretches there beneath."


The toys are all grotesque

And not for lovely hands; are dangerous,

Serrate in open and artful places.  Rise.

Let us combine.  There are no magics or elves

Or timely godmothers to guide us.  We are lost, must

Wizard a track through our own screaming weed.



Gwendolyn Brooks by Susan Robinson

    The personal philosophy of Gwendolyn Brooks: "To be clean of heart, clear of mind, and claiming of what is right and just." Gwendolyn Brooks was the poet laureate of the State of Illinois, and the first African American author to be honored with a Pulitzer Prize.  


    Gwendolyn Brooks was born on June 17, 1917 in Topeka, Kansas. She was raised in Chicago and lived there all her life. She knew she wanted to be a writer from the age of seven, and her parents, David Anderson Brooks and Keziah Corinne Brooks, encouraged her. At the age of thirteen, one of her poems was published by a children's magazine, American Childhood. While still a high school student, Gwendolyn Brooks met poets Langston Hughes and James Weldon Johnson, who encouraged her to continue to write. As a teenager, she began to submit her poetry to the poetry column of the Chicago Defender newspaper; the Defender eventually published more than seventy-five of Brooks' poems. She graduated from Wilson Junior College in 1936. In 1937 Brooks' poems were included in two anthologies.


    Gwendolyn Brooks won an award at the Midwestern Writers Conference in 1943. It was the first of a lifetime of awards and honors, which included Guggenheim fellowships, an American Academy of Poets fellowship, the Frost Medal, a National Endowment for the Arts award, the Shelley Memorial Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, and in 1949, a Pulitzer Prize for her work, Annie Allen. Brooks' first collection of poetry , A Street in Bronzeville, was published in 1945. She went on to author more than twenty books of poetry as well as a novel, Maud Martha (1953), and an autobiography (1972). Many of Brooks' works depict the life experiences of African Americans in the inner city, with an awareness of the effects that racial and ethnic identity have on each person's perspective.


    In 1967 Brooks attended a Black Writers' Conference at Fisk University, and this experience inspired her to change her emphasis from writing about African American people to writing for us. She broke off her business relationship with a large New York publishing house and began to have her work published by smaller, African American publishers.She was appointed Poet Laureate of Illinois in 1968, and used this office to bring poetry into the lives of not only students, but even hospital patients and prison inmates.


Gwendolyn Brooks passed away on December 3, 2000 at the age of eighty-three. She leaves a wealth of literary treasure as her legacy. She was a great poet and an extraordinary leader in the world of American literature.


    Twenty years ago, Brooks was honored at the White House by President Jimmy Carter. This is the poem that she read:



The Mother


Abortions will not let you forget.

You remember the children you got that you did not get,

The damp small pulps with a little or with no hair,

The singers and workers that never handled the air.  

You will never neglect or beat

Them, or silence or buy with a sweet.

You will never wind up the sucking thumb

Or scuttle off ghosts that come.

You will never leave them, controlling your luscious sigh,

Return for a snack of them, with gobbling mother-eye.


I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed


I have contracted.  I have eased

My dim dears at the breasts they could never suck.

I have said, Sweets, if I sinned, if I seized

Your luck

And your lives from your unfinished reach,

If I stole your births and your names,

Your straight baby tears and your games,

Your stilted or lovely loves, you tumults, your marriages, aches,

and your deaths,

If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths,

Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate.

Though why should I whine,

Whine that the crime was other than mine?- -

Since anyhow you are dead,

Or rather, or instead,

You were never made.

But that too, I am afraid,

Is faulty: oh, what shall I say, how is the tructh to be said?

You were born, you had body, you died.

It is just that you never giggled or planned or cried.


Believe me, I loved you all.

Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you




Here is another poem by Gwendolyn Brooks:


The Crazy Woman


I shall not sing a May song.

A May song should be gay.

I'll wait until November

And sing a song of gray.


I'll wait until November

That is the time for me.

I'll go out in the frosty dark

And sing most terribly.


And all the little people

Will stare at me and say,

"That is the Crazy Woman

Who would not sing in May."

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