Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
With the publication of her second book of poetry, Annie Allen, Chicago poet Gwendolyn Brooks became the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize. The blackness-nourishing collection is arranged in three parts: “Notes from the Childhood and the Girlhood,” “The Anniad” (which includes the long poem of that title and two short works as “Appendix to the Anniad”), and “The Womanhood.” As the titles imply, each section of the book corresponds to a stage in the life of Annie Allen.
Brooks is securely anchored in the African American literary tradition. The poet’s expertise with technical poetic forms is overshadowed only by her abiding and evident joy in words. Her work attests to an admiration for poet Langston Hughes, whose sharp comic irony matches her own. In the early 1940’s, at their Chicago apartment located in the “very buckle of the Black belt,” as Brooks describes it, she and her husband Henry Blakely gave a party for Hughes. Not long after, in 1945, Brooks’s first book of poems, A Street in Bronzeville, was published by Harper & Row. Four years later, Annie Allen emerged to glowing reviews for its linguistic brilliance. While her first book emphasizes community consciousness, the second focuses on self-realization; the central character, Annie, moves from the security of her parents’ home into city life, marriage, and motherhood. From her kitchenette above a real-estate agency, of which...
(The entire section is 1877 words.)
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