(Masterpieces of American Literature)

“The Children of the Poor” is contained in the third part of Annie Allen. Partly autobiographical, Annie Allen consists of three sections: “Notes from the Childhood and Girlhood;” “The Anniad,” a poem of forty-three stanzas, in which the central character, Annie, attains personhood; and “The Womanhood,” in which Annie reaches maturity. In general, Annie Allen requires more concentrated reading than A Street in Bronzeville, as Brooks makes more obscure implications regarding human nature and uses more complex language marked by symbolism, figures of speech, twists of diction, and unusual combinations of words.

In “The Children of the Poor,” Brooks looks at the ravages of World War II from a mother’s standpoint. To her, the most vulnerable survivors were the children left fatherless, especially those whose widowed or abandoned mothers were economically impoverished. The poem consists of five sonnets in the Shakespearean and Petrarchan styles, each sonnet examining a different aspect of life from a maternal view.

In the first sonnet, Brooks describes the nature of motherhood by combining positive and negative images. For example, children’s “softness” makes a “trap” and a “curse” for their mothers. Nevertheless, youngsters provide “sugar” for the “malocclusions” of the love that produced them. Motherhood is confining, yet fulfilling.

In the next sonnet,...

(The entire section is 469 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Brooks, Gwendolyn. Report from Part One. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1972.

Bryant, Jacqueline, ed. Gwendolyn Brooks’ “Maud Martha”: A Critical Collection. Chicago: Third World Press, 2002.

Kent, George E. A Life of Gwendolyn Brooks. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1990.

Lanker, Brian. I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America. New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1989.

Madhubuti, Haki R., ed. Say That the River Turns: The Impact of Gwendolyn Brooks. Chicago: Third World Press, 1987.

Melhem, D. H. Gwendolyn Brooks: Poetry and the Heroic Voice. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1987.

Mootry, Maria K., and Gary Smith, eds. A Life Distilled: Gwendolyn Brooks, Her Poetry and Fiction. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987.

Washington, Mary Helen. “Plain, Black, and Decently Wild: The Heroic Possibilities of Maud Martha.” In The Voyage In: Fictions of Female Development, edited by Elizabeth Abel, Marianne Hirsch, and Elizabeth Langland. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1983.

Wright, Stephen Caldwell, ed. On Gwendolyn Brooks: Reliant Conversation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996.