This title includes in-depth critical discussions of her life and works. With her mastery of traditional verse forms and insightful treatment of race, Gwendolyn Brooks carved a unique space for herself within American poetry. Her early work earned her numerous accolades, including a Pulitzer Prize and an appointment as the Poet Laureate of Illinois, and her later work saw her writing in response to the black art movement's call for politically and racially conscious poetry. Still, though her poetry underwent numerous transformations, Brooks maintained a powerful commitment to both her craft and to the lives of the ordinary people she knew from her South Side neighborhood. Edited by Mildred R. Mickle, Assistant Professor of English at Penn State Greater Allegheny, this volume examines Brooks' work from myriad perspectives. Mickle's introduction reflects on Brooks' legacy, locating her work as a bridge between the poets of the Harlem Renaissance and the poets of the black arts movement. Jascha Hoffman of "The Paris Review" then remembers his first encounter with Brooks' work and celebrates her achievement of carefully balancing craft with politics.
Four original essays by Kathy Rugoff, Martin Kich, Matthew Bolton, and Robert C. Evans offer valuable context to readers new to Brooks and her work. Rugoff explores how the Harlem Renaissance and the civil rights, black power, and black arts movements all influenced Brooks's work with close readings of selections from "A Street in Bronzeville", "Annie Allen", "The Bean Eaters", "In the Mecca", "Riot", and "Family Pictures". Kich provides a survey of the major pieces of Brooks's criticism, noting common foci like race, poetics, gender, literary influences, and Brooks' novel "Maud Martha". Bolton demonstrates Brooks' mastery and revision of traditional poetic forms by locating her "The Anniad" and "Riders to the Blood-red Wrath" within the epic and mock-epic traditions. Finally, Robert C. Evans offers a close reading of "The Chicago Defender Sends a Man to Little Rock" to discuss how Brooks' adept use of poetic devices like rhythm, meter, rhyme, and enjambment helps create the meaning of the poem. Also included in this collection are twelve previously published essays that examine Brooks and her poetry through a variety of lenses.
A review of "The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks" attempts to locate Brooks' place in American poetry. Close readings of Annie Allen uncover Brooks' modernist influences and study her use of double-consciousness, while a study of Brooks' use of apostrophe shows how she adapted it to multiple works, including "Annie Allen" and "The Sermon on the Warpland". Other critics explore the historical contexts of Brooks' work: readings of "Negro Heroes" and "Gay Chaps at the Bar" discuss America's reception of black veterans after World War II, and an essay on "In the Mecca" draws on articles from Harper's and "Time" to explore the real-life apartment complex. Still other critics focus on Brooks' synthesis of poetry and politics through examinations of "In the Mecca", "Sermon on the Warpland", "Report from Part One", and "Riot". Lastly, a look at the children of Brooks' poetry reveals them to be a means through which she critiques dominant ideas of race and gender and reaches out to the next generation.
Finally, a chronology of Brooks' life, a thorough list of her published works, and an extensive bibliography of critical offerings provide a wealth of resources for readers desiring to study Brooks in greater depth. Each essay is 5,000 words in length, and all essays conclude with a list of 'Works Cited', along with endnotes. Finally, the volume's appendixes offer a section of useful reference resources.show more