Carolyn M. Rodgers Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Carolyn M. Rodgers is known primarily for her poetry. She edited For Love of Our Brothers (1970) and published a few short stories in popular magazines such as Essence. Rodgers also reviewed books for the Chicago Daily News and served as a columnist for the Milwaukee Courier.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Carolyn M. Rodgers is probably best known for writing poetry about the dynamics of black women’s lives. After she published her first book of poems, Paper Soul, she was awarded the first Conrad Kent Rivers Memorial Fund Award. In 1970, after Songs of a Blackbird received favorable reviews, she received a National Endowment for the Arts grant and a Poet Laureate Award from the Society of Midland Authors. In 1976, How I Got Ovah was nominated for a National Book Award. Rodgers also received a Carnegie Award, a PEN award, and the Gwendolyn Brooks fellowship.

Rodgers’s book reviews and other forms of criticism added to the scholarship on black literature. Her essay “Black Poetry—Where It’s At” (1969) is particularly noteworthy because it reveals a variety of black poems and poets and how they are connected to the culture. In 1967, she cofounded Third World Press with Haki R. Madhubuti and Johari Amini. In 1980, she founded Eden Press.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Davidson, Adenike Marie. “Carolyn Marie Rodgers.” In Encyclopedia of African American Women Writers, edited by Yolanda Williams Page. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2007. A basic biography of Rodgers that contains some analysis of her poetry.

Evans, Mari, ed. Black Women Writers. Garden City, N.J.: Anchor Doubleday, 1984. Includes an interview with Rodgers and an overview of her life and contributions. Two essays discuss her poetry: Angelene Jamison’s “Imagery in the Women Poems: The Art of Carolyn Rodgers” illuminates the complex thoughts and feelings of black female personas in Paper Soul, Songs of a Blackbird, How I Got Ovah, and The Heart as Ever Green. Bettye J. Parker-Smith’s “Running Wild in Her Soul: The Poetry of Carolyn Rodgers” describes the numerous phases or evolutions of Rodgers’s writing life, from militant to Christian, across five volumes of poetry.

Graves, Roy Neil. “The Poetry of Carolyn M. Rodgers.” In Masterplots II: African American Literature, edited by Tyrone Williams. Rev. ed. Pasadena, Calif.: Salem Press, 2009. Provides analysis of Rodgers’s poetry, noting the influence of her Chicago upbringing and the Black Arts movement.

Mance, Ajuan Maria. Inventing Black Women: African American Women Poets and Self-Representation, 1877-2000. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2008. A rich discussion of Rodgers’s poetry from her earlier volumes, including Songs of a Blackbird, How I Got Ovah, and The Heart as Ever Green.

Rodgers, Carolyn M. Foreword to Black Writing from Chicago: In the World, Not of It?, edited by Richard Guzman. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2006. Rodgers describes what it was like to be a writer in Chicago. She recalls how she assisted Brooks with the title of her anthology, Jump Bad: A New Chicago Anthology (1971). The book also includes select poems from Rodgers’s We’re Only Human and A Train Called Judah.