Brooks, Gwendolyn 1917–
Pulitzer Prize-winning Black American poet. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed.)
"Report From Part One" is a seemingly chunk and hunk assemblage of photographs, interviews, letters—backward glances on growing up in Chicago and coming of age in the Black Arts Movement. It is not a sustained dramatic narrative for the nosey, being neither the confessions of a private woman/poet or the usual sort of mahoghany-desk memoir public personages inflict upon the populace at the first sign of a cardiac. It is simply an extremely valuable book that is all of a piece and readable and memorable in unexpected ways. It documents the growth of Gwen Brooks. Documents that essentially lonely (no matter how close and numerous the friends who support, sustain and encourage you to stretch out and explore) process of opening the eyes, wrenching the self away from played-out modes, and finding new directions. It shows her reaching toward a perspective that reflects the recognition that the black artist is obliged to fashion an esthetic linked to the political dynamics of the community she serves.
Gwendolyn Brooks, Poet Laureate of Illinois as well as Bard of Bronzeville, was considered one of America's leading poets long before her 50th year. She is known for her technical artistry, having worked her word sorcery in forms as disparate as Italian terza rima and the blues. She has been applauded for her revelations of the African experience in America, particularly her sensitive portraits of black women in collections like "Street in Bronzeville" (1945) and the novel "Maud Martha" (1953). Since she was first published at age 13, she has been awarded numerous poetry accolades: two Guggenheims, an American Academy of Arts and Letters grant, and a Pulitzer Prize. Yet, it was in her 50th year that something happened, a something most certainly in evidence in "In the Mecca" (1968) and subsequent works—a new movement and energy, intensity, richness, power of statement and a new stripped, lean, compressed style. A change of style prompted by a change of mind….
Like the younger black poets, Gwen Brooks since the late Sixties has been struggling for a cadence, style, idiom and content that will politicize and mobilize. Like the young black poets, her recent work is moving more toward gesture, sound, intonation, attitude and other characteristics that depend on oral presentation rather than private eyeballing. It is important to have the poet...
(The entire section contains 618 words.)
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- Critical Essays