Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000)
This is provided as the setting for her first book of poems, A Street in Brozeville (1945), and for a book of children’s poems, Bronzeville Boys and Girls (1956). In her early poetry, Brooks attacked racial discrimination, praised black American heroes, and satirized both blacks and whites.
Brooks’s skillful use of short, rapid verse lines and seemingly casual rhymes increases the effectiveness of her biting wit. Selected Poems (1963) includes many of her best poems from her early writing. Her poems are usually addressed to the black and deal with issues and problems of the black community. Bus she also writes on more general or universal themes like love, motherhood, women’s experience, modern culture, and so on. Her poems are known for the apt imagery and the simplicity and directness of expression. Brooks does not use the traditional rhythms but rather the rhythms of the Negro streets and diction of ordinary discourse.
In 1950, she became the first black American to win a Pulitzer Prize. She received the award for Annie Allen (1949); her second collection of poetry. The central poem is a story about the experiences of a black girl growing up in America during World War II (1939-1945). The year 1968 marks a dividing line in Brooks’s work. In her writings both before and after 1968, Brooks showed her commitment to racial identity and equality for blacks. However, in her earlier work, she showed great mastery of European-American poetic styles and techniques. Her later works became more militant and nationalistic. This verse is written in a style that includes black language and rituals, and places black solidarity above the demands of art for its own sake. Her later poetry is represented in In the Mecca (1968), Riot (1970), Aloneness (1971), and To Disembark (1981). She has published a novel, Maud Martha (1953), and an autobiography, Report from Part One (1972). Brooks is the poet laureate of Illinois.