Gwendolyn Brooks

Gwendolyn Brooks

Gwendolyn Brooks

Gwendolyn Brooks


-- Brings together the best criticism on the most widely read poets, novelists, and playwrights

-- Presents complex critical portraits of the most influential writers in the English-speaking world -- from the English medievalists to contemporary writers


Gwendolyn Brooks says of her pre-1967 poetry: "I wasn't writing consciously with the idea that blacks must address blacks, must write about blacks." Certainly, her work after 1967 is very different from her poems composed before she turned fifty. I prefer the earlier achievement, a judgment (if it is one) that is harmless since every essayist in this volume, except for Langston Hughes, centers upon the later Brooks.

The famous lyric, "The Bean Eaters" ironically and memorably celebrates:

Two who are Mostly Good,
Two who have lived their day,
But keep on putting on their clothes
And putting things away.

This wry turn upon the universal still seems to me Brooks's strength, as does "The Crazy Woman," an eloquent extension of the Mad Song tradition:

I'll wait until November.
That is the time for me.
I'll go out in the frosty dark
And sing most terribly.

If I contrast these with the poem of 1969, "The Riot," I come to see that I am not yet competent to judge the poet who was reborn in 1967. The satiric eye is still there, and the dominant stylistic influence remains T. S. Eliot. Yet the style and the stance seem not to cohere:

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