I Met Gwendolyn Brooks
I met Gwendolyn Brooks briefly, when I was about 14 years old. I grew up in Evanston, Illinois, and I went to Evanston Township High School, where we had a very active and thriving creative writing club. Our club went on a field trip into Chicago where we attended a "write about artwork" workshop at the art museum, and then Brooks did a reading and spoke to us about what it is to be a writer (though not necessarily an author).
She seemed to me to be a tiny woman, and she reminded me of one of my aunts (also a black Chicago poet). Spare-framed, but I never had the impression of frailty from her. I did feel then that she was speaking to us from across a gulf of generations-- more than a gap, a real canyon. Brooks was a participant in the Harlem Renaissance, after all, and although we were the grandchildren of WWII veterans, we were also from the age of New Edition and Sixteen Candles.
This was not my first exposure to published authors, of course, but it was impactful because I liked Brooks and I admired her. She spoke about the political questions surrounding writing poetry. She said that her poem, "The Mother" was controversial. It's a poem about abortion-- the very first line makes it clear that this is a mother who is not a mother.
"I have been asked, many times, by people on both sides of the question, to use this poem for their causes," she said. "They all think it supports their side, and they want me to say that's true. But I won't." Whenever asked, Brooks left the question unanswered.
I enjoy Brooks' poetry because it's a refreshing change from pastoral English poets, who so often wax poetic about the Lake district and find everything sublime, or poets whose senses are continuously jarred by the difference between natural beauty and urban life. Brooks was an urban poet, perhaps one of the first in what has become a wide open genre for black poets, and what that means is that her poetry embraces the space she's in, without any sense of wanting or yearning for an idyllic Garden of Eden that doesn't really exist.
The Seven Pool Players: We Real Cool (read by Brooks)
Finding Brooks on the Web
- Brooks' poems
Linked poems from Brooks.
- Gwendolyn Brooks
Poets.org biography of Brooks
- Life Distilled: Four Decades of U.S. Poet Laureates
Promotion for special public radio series featuring 15 U.S. Poets Laureate
- Gwendolyn Brooks - Wikipedia
Gwendolyn Brooks' wiki entry.
Brooks on Amazon.com
My Signed Copy
Although she wasn't the first author I'd met, she was among the first authors whose book I bought and had signed on the spot. My signed copy of Blacks is still, today, one of my cherished possessions. She inscribed it with a message to me to keep writing... and I have.
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