Dennis Brutus Criticism - Essay

Cosmo Pieterse (essay date 1967)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: An interview with Dennis Brutus, in Cultural Events in Africa, No. 26, January, 1967, pp. I-III.

[In the following interview, Brutus discusses with Pieterse some of the themes and techniques of his poetry, as well as his principal influences.]

[Pieterse]: Dennis, one notices in poems of yours that fairly frequently there are opposites, for instance in the third line of the introductory poem from your collection; Sirens, Knuckles, and Boots:

A troubadour, I traverse all my land
exploring all her wide flung parts with zest
probing in motion sweeter far than rest
her secret thickets with...

(The entire section is 1961 words.)

Pol Ndu (essay date 1971)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: "Passion and Poetry in the Works of Dennis Brutus," in Black Academy River, Vol. 2, No. 1-2, Spring-Summer, 1971, pp. 41-54.

[In the following excerpt, Ndu maintains that the presence of passion is critical for creating great poetry and he argues that Brutus's poetry is limited by what the author calls his "cautious " emotional involvement in the anti-apartheid movement.]

Dennis Brutus sows the needs of great poetry when he discusses themes of special intimacy to himself. Such themes could have arisen from some loss, some desire, some feeling or even the pain of the confrontation of the abominable regime. But in each case, the poet does not generalize or pose...

(The entire section is 3072 words.)

Palaver interview (essay date 1972)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: "Interview with Dennis Brutus," in Palaver: Interviews with Five African Writers in Texas, Bernth Lindfors, Ian Munro, Richard Priebe, Reinhard Sander (eds.), The University of Texas at Austin, 1972, pp. 25-36.

[In the following excerpt, Brutus speaks to an African literature class about the personal experiences and literary influences that shape his poetry]

I'm glad to be here, and it seems to me the most useful thing I can do is to spend most of the time answering questions on the things that interest you. I ought to warn you that I don't know all the answers, and when it comes to poetry, even my own, I don't always give the same answer to the same question....

(The entire section is 3309 words.)

R. N. Egudu (essay date 1976)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: "Pictures of Pain: The Poetry of Dennis Brutus," in Aspects of African Literature, Christopher Heywood (ed.), Heinemann, 1976, pp. 131-144.

[In the following excerpt, Egudu describes Brutus's poetry as the expression of "mental agony" and praises his use of emotional tension.]

The poetry of Dennis Brutus is the reaction of one who is in mental agony-whether he is at home or abroad. This agony is partly caused by harassments, arrests, and imprisonment, and mainly by Brutus's concern for other suffering people. Thus Brutus feels psychically injured in some of his poems. When he traverses all his land as a 'troubadour',10 finding wandering 'motion...

(The entire section is 1355 words.)

Chikwenye Okonjo Ogunyemi (essay date 1982)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Song of the Caged Bird: Contemporary African Prison Poetry," in Ariel, Vol. 13, No. 4, October, 1982, pp. 65-84.

[In the following excerpt, Ogunyemi charts how Brutus transformed his prison experiences into a "humanistic" poetry that grapples with the problems of existence.]

Writing in the nineteenth century, in his poem "Sympathy," Paul Laurence Dunbar equated the incarcerated nature of black life in America to the life of a caged bird. As a black man with only the foretaste of genuine freedom that the Reconstruction Period in American society could provide, he could fully sympathize with the plight of the bird, and records it dolefully:


(The entire section is 1931 words.)

Amiri Baraka (review date 1989)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Airs and Tributes, in Black American Literature Forum, Vol. 23, No. 3, Fall, 1989, pp. 621-26.

[In the following review, Baraka faults the poetry in Airs and Tributes as being written to please academics and for failing to fully serve the international "revolutionary struggle."]

This new volume of Dennis Brutus carries a multiple significance. Because Brutus is one of the best known of the South African poets in the U.S., we are interested not only in the poetry qua poetry and the life it carries and introduces us to, but because of the nature of the world itself, independent of poetry, Brutus's name carries another set of...

(The entire section is 2229 words.)

Frank M. Chipasula (essay date 1993)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: "A Terrible Trajectory: The Impact of Apartheid, Prison and Exile on Dennis Brutus's Poetry," in Essays on African Writing: A Re-evaluation, edited by Abdulrazak Gurnah, Heinemann, 1993, pp. 38-55.

[In the following essay, Chipasula argues that the strains and pressures of the apartheid state, rather than inspiring Brutus, actually limited the extent of his poetic achievement.]

In contemporary African literature very few poets have attracted as much international attention for their extra-literary efforts as the exiled South African activist-poet, Dennis Brutus. Having been nurtured on a 'diet of eloquent delectable accolades',1 he has grown into...

(The entire section is 6031 words.)

Ronald Ayling (essay date 1995)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: "Statements and Poetry: Salutes and Censures Re-Examined," in Critical Perspectives on Dennis Brutus, edited by Craig W. McLuckie and Patrick J. Colbert, Three Continents Press, 1995, pp. 135-141.

[In the following excerpt, Ayling offers an assessment of the poems in Salutes and Censures and criticizes Brutus for writing poetry without tension.]

Dennis Brutus was already a well known poet and activist by the time in the early 1980s that he came to collect together the occasional writings that eventually appeared as Salutes and Censures. Of the eight previous collections of his poems, three were of major proportions in quality as well as...

(The entire section is 2216 words.)

John Lent (essay date 1995)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: '"Turning Stones to Trees:' The Transformation Of Political Experience in Dennis Brutus' Strains," in Critical Perspectives on Dennis Brutus, edited by Craig W. McLuckie and Patrick J. Colbert, Three Continents Press, 1995, pp. 99-112.

[In the following excerpt, Lent examines how the concrete landscape imagery in Strains embodies the abstract emotions of suffering and exile.]

At the end of Strains, Dennis Brutus suggests this paradox regarding artistic expression and silence: "Music, at its highest / strains towards silence." (Strains, 44) In a curious way, it identifies an artistic issue that lies beneath the composition of the...

(The entire section is 2977 words.)