Gwendolyn Brooks American Literature Analysis
Critics have called Brooks’s poetry “elegant and earthy.” While she portrays black life in Chicago in realistic detail, she blends realism with lyricism, giving her poems beauty as well as truth. For Brooks, realism for its own sake is not enough; beauty is the essential ingredient that enables a poem to move its audience.
Brooks’s style is characterized by its diversity. She employs a variety of poetic forms, including the sonnet, the ballad, the blues, free verse, and blank verse, sometimes in combination. Her language is also varied. In “We Real Cool” (from The Bean Eaters), she writes in black English; in some works, such as “The Anniad” (the second part of Annie Allen), she uses language reminiscent of the Renaissance and Middle Ages; in still others, she creates compound words such as “whimper-whine,” “heart-cup,” “wonder-starred,” and “oak-eyed,” producing the flavor of Anglo-Saxon poetry. In all of her works, she strives for one central image and gropes painstakingly for the exact words to convey her message. In an interview with writer Brian Lanker, she cautioned that if a line entered a poet’s mind too spontaneously, it probably was not original; quite likely, the poet had read it in the work of someone else.
Although Brooks’s poems depict black life, her themes (at least in the works written prior to the mid-1960’s) are universal. The characters are black Chicagoans, but their...
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