Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 981
Brooks, Gwendolyn 1917–
Ms Brooks is a Pulitzer Prize-winning Black American poet. She has been called one of America's most "objective" poets and her imaginative and powerful poems have reminded some critics of the work of Wallace Stevens. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed.)
In [In the Mecca], Gwendolyn Brooks is more self-consciously a Negro than ever before. The long title poem is both an impressionistic and naturalistic journey through a huge ghetto apartment house, through the black precincts of despair. It is a strong poem, displaying the same raw power and roughness that marked and marred Richard Wright's fiction. Miss Brooks preaches a sermon of life in the face of her despair; she invokes the examples of Medgar Evers and Malcolm X to counter the chaos of poor life in the Mecca. It is a new manner and a new voice for Miss Brooks, better than her earlier work in its honesty, poorer in its loss of music and control. Perhaps the exchange was necessary; it proves that Gwendolyn Brooks, the poet, is still alive in the fullest sense.
Virginia Quarterly Review, Vol. 45, No. 1, Winter, 1969, p. xx.
Miss Brooks is a poet of the contemporary world, and her works reflect the semi-heavens and hells of the black people of this world. Although she displays insight and wisdom, her treatment is objective, and her characters speak for themselves. The idiom is often local, but the language is universal. Her work sometimes resembles a poignant social document, but her poems are works of art….
From the city-folk poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks, one can reconstruct a vivid picture of Bronzeville, U.S.A. Her characters are usually the unheroic black people who fled the land for the city—only to discover that there is little difference between the world of the North and the world of the South. One learns from them their dismal joys and their human grief and pain. Miss Brooks, whose material is often incendiary, remains detached as she writes about the bodies and souls of Bronzeville, U.S.A.
Jeanne-Marie A. Miller, "Bronzeville, U.S.A.," in The Journal of Negro Education, Winter, 1970, pp. 88-90.
In Riot, as in all her later poetry, many lines are cryptic and compressed. The impact of her words is powerful. She does not preach; her work is not polemical. As a vital poet Miss Brooks merely responds to the climate in America, the varied moods and the changing times.
Jeanne-Marie A. Miller, "Riot," in The Journal of Negro Education, Fall, 1970, pp. 368-69.
Report From Part I affirms the riot in the world of Gwendolyn Brooks as it uses family pictures and selected poems to make clear the new woman and the new poet found in today's Gwendolyn Brooks….
As an autobiographer, Gwen Brooks deals with facts in a straightforward manner while remaining true to her times and true to herself. She presents facts to show the development of her career. Then she interprets them and evaluates her career….
"Collage" defines her Black womanhood first in relation to her personhood, selfhood, or humanness and then in relation to her femininity. For Gwen Brooks, peoplehood or race is not limited to continental boundaries. When she crosses from continent to continent, she realizes that racial unity becomes a necessity for survival; however, she further realizes that the achievement of unity becomes more difficult when it reaches beyond continental boundaries. This section offers a spontaneity with its brief and varied discussions. Moreover, it draws a relationship between each of these topics and Miss Brooks' individuality.
Report From Part I offers a blend of inner thoughts with outer actions as it makes private and public aspects of Gwen's life interesting and inspirational. Report From Part I, like Gwendolyn Brooks, is rich enough to expand minds and to grow people. Both the woman and the book have separate dignities that each communicate "an appropriate glory."
Annette Oliver Shands, "'Report from Part One'," in Black World (copyright © March, 1973, by Black World; reprinted by permission of Black World and Annette Oliver Shands), March, 1973, pp. 70-1.
Gwendolyn Brooks, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and Poet Laureate of Illinois, is known as one of the world's great living poets. But she also is a novelist….
Maud Martha is included in The World of Gwendolyn Brooks among various collections of poems. Within the novel, Miss Brooks explores the theme of humanness. She gives value to places, things and localities as they are identified with people and their feelings. Human feelings growing from one's innermost thoughts, the interactions between a man and a woman, the interracial relations between Black and whites, the impressions seeded in the Black community, and the most perplexing questions relating to mankind are posed and examined. They are examined with the possibility of change. Throughout the novel Miss Brooks presents ideas and techniques that are evident in her poems. A striking difference is that the novel has less subtlety than her poems….
As a novelist, Gwendolyn Brooks presents an impressionable analysis of the life of a young Black woman. Her novel antedates the 1954 desegregation court decision, laying bare a part of the impetus behind today's surge toward "the Black and the beautiful." Unlike many of the earliest Black writers, Miss Brooks does not specify traits, niceties or assets for members of the Black community to acquire in order to attain their just rights. For as Maud Martha listens to Howie Joe Jones, she feels there is something special about nameless, but "private identities." So, this is not a novel to inspire social advancement on the part of fellow Blacks. Nor does it say be poor, Black and happy. The message is to accept the challenge of being human and to assert humanness with urgency.
Annette Oliver Shands, "Gwendolyn Brooks as Novelist," in Black World (© June, 1973, by Black World; reprinted by permission of Black World and Annette Oliver Shands), June, 1973, pp. 22-30.