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Selected Poems by Gwendolyn Brooks

My long weekend has seen me graze through poetry anthologies like there is no tomorrow. By now it is clear that I am in my poetry zone and there’s no stopping! I like that poetry is fast paced and intimate. I think that there is a certain intimacy that comes with poetry because most of those stanzas are highly emotive, be it love, rage, forgiveness, longing and even confusion. My final read for the long weekend was an anthology of selected poems by Gwendolyn Brooks. Yes, the Gwendolyn Brooks! This is a classic body of work and I am glad that I got an opportunity to read it. It is always refreshing to go back to old work that has not lost its relevance. This is timeless work.

This is a highly charged collection of selected poems from various works. A collection that tackles so many issues that affected (and still affect) marginalized people in America. Racism, poverty, war, gender based ills and the cycles of life. An emotive and compelling collection which features selections from the following books; A Street in Bronzeville, Annie Allen (which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1950), The Bean Eaters, and some new poems. Written with a need to address social injustices, personal joys and turmoil and the state of life one is faced with a solid collection.

In an interview broadcast on WFMT Chicago in 1961, Gwendolyn Brooks said, ‘I myself have only tried to record life and interpret it as I have seen it.’ Her work becomes the eyes/a window through which readers across nations experience and observe life and community. In the first edition of A Street in Bronzville, one of the poems ‘the mother’ had been set aside (omission) because it addressed abortions. Brooks felt otherwise, she said so, and the publishers left it in. Storytelling is important and I think it is crucial that writers and other artist stand up for their work because it has a purpose that it must serve. Write what you like, what you want.

‘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 weeds grow. A girl gets sick of a rose.’ – A Song In the Front Yard, page 6

Brooks was the young girl in the front yard, looking at the divide between the haves and the haves-not, of owning and lacking, of the naivety of childhood and the so called maturity and corruption of adulthood. A girl who desires to leave the life of wealth for sometime, to go and play with the ‘charity children’ for that is where a life that makes her feel truly alive can be found. For this young girl, the simple life of the poor is as a breath of fresh air for the wealthy. This is such an ironic poem and one that I really enjoyed! A collection of poems read and felt. I love that this classic volume comes with insights and interviews at the end which help the reader to connect more with the author and the work too.


Author’s Profile

Gwendolyn Brooks was an American poet born in 1917 who died in 2000. Her published works include A Street in Brozeville, Annie Allen, The Bean Eaters, Maud Martha (her only novel), Blacks and In The Mecca: Poems. In 1950 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Annie Allen. She was also awarded the Robert Frost Medal in 1989 and the National Medal of Arts in 1995. This book of selected poems was first published in 1963.


Book Details

Title: Selected Poems

Author: Gwendolyn Brooks

Genre: Poetry

Pages: 127

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers (2006)

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