D. H. MELHEM


Later Works

While Riot and Family Pictures crest the progressive mood of the Civil Rights Movement, " In Montgomery" describes something new. Ever " a Watchful Eye, a Tuned Ear, a Super-Reporter," Brooks was commissioned by Ebony magazine in 1971 to report on black life in Montgomery, Alabama. Her startling prescience of the new decade supports Pound's view that poets are "the antennae of the race."

The seventies retreated from the activist sixties. Revelations of government corruption, climaxed by the resignation of President Richard Nixon; the end of the Vietnam War; a weariness with politics coupled with satisfaction by modest gains in civil rights; concentration upon daily needs—jobs; a nostalgic and escapist mentality; these factors influenced the national mood and black life. Referring to the seventies as "a decade of American disillusionment," Russell Baker satirically cites public boredom and frustration (in both one reads anger) regarding current scandals. Specific changes, some minor (such as the return to hair-straightening among black women) and some major (such as the decision by the Johnson Publishing Company to suspend Black World [ 1977] because of falling circulation), Brooks found significant and disturbing. Dismantling of the magazine's intellectual and spiritual leadership reflected a general trend, at least on the surface, toward conformity. Brook's thematic responses, expressed through verse journalism,

____________________
From Gwendolyn Brooks: Poetry and the Heroic Voice. © 1987 D. H. Melhem.

-79-

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