Clairvoyant with Hunger: Essays on James Dickey, James Wright, W.S. Merwin, Etc.

By Laurence Lieberman | Go to book overview

On the Brink of Secession: Gwendolyn Brooks
“The Wall”

When I first met Gwendolyn Brooks In August l968, her breakthrough book In The Mecca had just been released, the last poetry collection she would publish with Harper & Row. My cousin Aida Berensen, a friend of Brooks in Chicago, prepared a dinner for two couples—the Blakelys and the Liebermans. And Gwendolyn generously inscribed a gift copy of In The Mecca to my family.

Earlier that year, Brooks had been appointed Poet Laureate of Illinois, following the death of her predecessor Carl Sandburg. It is easy enough to understand why Brooks would think of this book as a major turning point in her career, and subsequently, she would prefer to identify herself more with In The Mecca and the work that would come after, even though the very popular early works had won major awards, the Pulitzer Prize for Annie Allen and two Guggenheims in succeeding years, l946 and 47, a very rare doubling.

I believe that her poem “The Wall” is a crucial document that reflects the rationale for the major changes in her life and career that Brooks undertook during this period of quick transition. In The Mecca was the last new book that she would release with New York trade publishers. Henceforth, she would publish exclusively with smaller independent presses that specialized in works of African-American writers—Broadside Press and Third World Press. And in time, she would found a Press of her own to support writers of Color—David Company. Given her continuing critical success and wide popularity, it is quite evident that the New York trade houses didn’t drop her. She dumped them.

-184-

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Clairvoyant with Hunger: Essays on James Dickey, James Wright, W.S. Merwin, Etc.
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents iv
  • Clairvoyant with Hunger vi
  • Part 1 - James Dickey, Poems from the Eagle’S Mile 1
  • “the Eagle’S Mile” 2
  • “weeds” 7
  • “expanses” 10
  • “farmers” 13
  • “form” 16
  • “poem” 20
  • Homage to the Unburied: a Column - “sleepers” 30
  • “snow Thickets” 35
  • “the Three” 38
  • “the Six” 42
  • “circuit” 46
  • “eagles” 49
  • “night Bird” 51
  • “daybreak” 53
  • Warrior, Visionary, Natural Philosopher: James Dickey’S to the White Sea 56
  • Part 2 - James Wright’S Prose Poems 73
  • Of Two Sublimities: Love Poems “a Small Grove” 74
  • “in Gallipoli” 77
  • “the Gift of Change” 82
  • “flowering Olives” 87
  • “camomilla” 90
  • “may Morning” 96
  • “piccolini” 99
  • “regret for a Spider Web” 103
  • “the Snail at Assisi” 108
  • “the Sunlight Falling at Peace in Moret-Sur-Loing” 114
  • Paradigm for Prose Poems 118
  • “the Secret of Light” 119
  • “bari, Old and Young” 129
  • Part 3 - W.S. Merwin: Apotheosis of the Lepers 133
  • W. S. Merwin: Apotheosis of the Lepers 134
  • Part 4 - Igniting Sparks from Tamura’S Smithy 168
  • Igniting Sparks from Tamura’S Smithy 169
  • Part 5 183
  • On the Brink of Secession: Gwendolyn Brooks “the Wall” 184
  • “the Laggard Bird,” by Dunya Mikhail 192
  • David Bottoms’ Grueling Miracle: Faith in Middle Age 219
  • Part 6 - The Pull of the Sentence: on My Influences 250
  • Voice to Voice 251
  • The Most Essential Element of All: an Interview with Laurence Lieberman 269
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