Selected Poems Essay - Critical Essays

Analysis

Brooks’s poems deal with the people and experiences of the streets of a black area she called Bronzeville. Therefore, it is natural that she used the words that such people would use on the street, although she did set them in a context of regular meters. Brooks did not use free verse very often in her poems; meter and rhyme seem to be necessary to create the hypnotic spell that many of her poems have. In such long poems as “The Sundays of Satin-Legs Smith” and “The Anniad,” the meter is insistent and takes on the aspects of a chant. This hypnotic effect is reinforced by her use of couplets and short poetic lines. Brooks also used such traditional literary genres as the elegy and the mock-heroic as well as such technical devices as the couplet, rhyme royal, elegy and various types of sonnet. These traditional aspects of poetic technique are, however, brought together with folk elements such as black speech patterns and jazz and blues rhythms as well as ballads. Both traditional and folk elements combine to create a compelling social vision.

The speakers and situations in Brooks’s poems are primarily African American. She wished, above all, to show the everyday lives and struggles of black people rather than present ideals that are distant from or foreign to their experience. She also attempted to portray the largest range of experience possible. This can be seen most fully in longer poems such as “The Sundays of Satin-Legs Smith” and “The Anniad,” which deal with the ordinary lives of representative figures. Annie’s life moves from her early years to middle age, and a number of later poems deal with the problems of old age.

The portrayal of women in this society is...

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