(Masterpieces of American Literature)

“The Lovers of the Poor” is one of thirty-five poems in The Bean Eaters, a collection that moves beyond the descriptive and autobiographical to show Brooks’s growing social awareness. A satire on people with neither respect not genuine charity, the work was inspired by a visit Brooks received from two wealthy white women who wanted to see how the black winner of the Pulitzer Prize looked. In Brooks’s words, they behaved “rather sniffingly.” The women barge into Brooks’s apartment, apparently without warning, and silently criticize, while their hostess copes with the usual business of the day. The women feel it their duty to step outside their affluent environment and help the less fortunate, but they are totally unprepared for the raw, teeming poverty that they encounter.

Brooks uses several devices to help the audience perceive the women’s true attitude toward the poor. First, she employs sensual images that repel the visitors, such as the stenches of garbage, urine, and rotting food. The women are also put off by the myriad “Children, children, children—Heavens!” To the sheltered visitors, there is something repugnant in the prolific reproduction of the poor. Brooks reveals their genuine feelings regarding the poor through references to their “love so barbarously fair,” their “loathe-love,” and their intent to refresh with “milky chill.”

Brooks’s use of capitals, lowercase letters, and italics is...

(The entire section is 465 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.