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Gwendolyn Brooks
Photo by Howard Simmons

Gwendolyn Brooks


A Street in Bronzeville cover

Annie Allen cover

Maud Martha cover

Bronzeville Boys and Girls cover

Selected Poems cover

In the Mecca cover

Riot cover

Riot back cover

Aloneness cover

The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves cover

Capsule Course for Back Poetry Writers

Family Pictures cover

Beckonings cover

To Dsembark cover

Very Young Poets cover

Blacks cover

Eessential Gwendolyn Brooks cover

Jump Bad cover

 

Biography  
          

Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks was born in Topeka, KS, on June 7, 1917, to Keziah and David Brooks. She lived in Kansas until she was six weeks old, when she moved to Chicago, Illinois, where she grew up [1]. She maintained strong ties with Kansas for the rest of her life.

Brooks was raised in a loving home, and her parents were supportive of her education and writing. However, she was not allowed to play with other kids in the neighborhood, and did not have many friends. She spent a lot of her time reading and writing instead of socializing [2].

By the age of sixteen, Brooks had published about 75 poems.  She graduated high school in 1935, then attended Wilson Junior College, where she graduated in 1939 with an English degree.  Her first collection of poems, A Street in Bronzeville, was published in 1945.  It was praised by readers and critics, and her writing career soared from that point. 

Over the course of her career she was awarded seventy honorary degrees, a lifetime achievement award from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Book Foundation Award for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and she has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame [3]. She received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1950, for her second collection, Annie Allen.  She was the first black writer to receive the prize.  She was the Poet Laureate of Illinois, and also served as Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress (the position later called Poet Laureate of the United States) [2]. In 1983, Brooks was awarded an honorary degree, D. Litt., from Washburn University of Topeka.

Gwendolyn Brooks died in 2000, at the age of 83 [1].  

1. “Gwendolyn Brooks.”  Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gwendolyn_Brooks    
2.“The Circle Association’s Gwendolyn Brooks page.” http://www.math.buffalo.edu/~sww/brooks/brooks-biobib.html#bio

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Major Published Works*  
 

Street in Bronzeville, 1945.
Annie Allen, 1949.
Maud Martha, (her only novel) 1953.
Bronzeville Boys and Girls, 1956.
The bean eaters, poems. NY: Harper,1960.
Selected poems. NY: Harper & Row,1963.
In the Mecca; poems. NY: Harper & Row,1968.
Riot. Detroit: Broadside P, 1969.
Family pictures. Detroit: Broadside P,1970.
The world of Gwendolyn Brooks. NY: Harper & Row,1971.
Jump bad; a new Chicago anthology. Detroit: Broadside P,1971.
A broadside treasury, 1965 1970. Detroit: Broadside P,1971.
Aloneness. Illustrated by Leroy Foster. Detroit: Broadside P,1971.
Report from part one. Prefaces by Don L. Lee and George Kent. Detroit: Broadside P, 1972.
The Tiger Who Wrote White Gloves, or What You Are You Are, 1974.
A Capsule course in Black poetry writing. Detroit: Broadside P, 1975.
Beckonings, poems. Detroit: Broadside P, 1975.
Primer for Blacks, 1980.
Young Poet's Primer, 1980.
To Disembark, 1981.
Very Young Poets, 1983.
The Near-Johannesburg Boy and Other Poems, 1986.
Blacks (omnibus), 1987.
Children Coming Home, 1991.
The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks, 2005.

*obtained from Perspectives in American Literature web site; http://web.csustan.edu/english/reuben/pal/chap10/brooks.html


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Writing Samples  
 
the sonnet-ballad
 
  Oh mother, mother, where is happiness?
They took my lover's tallness off to war,
Left me lamenting. Now I cannot guess
What I can use an empty heart-cup for.
He won't be coming back here any more.
Some day the war will end, but, oh, I knew
When he went walking grandly out that door
That my sweet love would have to be untrue.
Would have to be untrue. Would have to court
Coquettish death, whose impudent and strange
Possessive arms and beauty (of a sort)
Can make a hard man hesitate--and change.
And he will be the one to stammer, "Yes."
Oh mother, mother, where is happiness?

The Bean Eaters
 
  They eat beans mostly, this old yellow pair.
Dinner is a casual affair.
Plain chipware on a plain and creaking wood,
Tin flatware.

Two who are Mostly Good.
Two who have lived their day,
But keep on putting on their clothes
And putting things away.

And remembering . . .
Remembering, with twinklings and twinges,
As they lean over the beans in their rented back room that
is full of beads and receipts and dolls and cloths,
tobacco crumbs, vases and fringes.


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Artifacts
 

Article from the Kansas City Star, October 12, 1976:

article

Article about Gwendolyn Brooks Day, from the Kansas City Star, April 5, 1991:

ks poet honored

Program from Park Dedication and Reception in Topeka, KS, 1996:

program

Program from Library Reception for Gwendolyn Brooks in 1996:

program 2

Portrait with Caption:

Gwendolyn Brooks photo
(Images above provided by the Topeka Shawnee County Public Library, Special Collections)


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Links  
 

Poetryfoundation.org features a detailed biography and bibliography and links to 22 poems by Gwendolyn Brooks.

Gale Free Resources provides a lengthy biography and recommended reading list.

The Circle Association's Gwendolyn Brooks page has links to biography, bibliography, and links to many Brooks poems.

Chickenbones: A Journal for Literary and Artistic African-American Themes has a website with a detailed biography and photos of the poet.

Poemhunter.com features links to 18 Gwendolyn Brooks poems

Famouspoemsandpoets.com's site includes bio, resources, quotes, and links to poems by Brooks.

Gwendolyn Brooks on Wikipedia

Gwendolyn Brooks on IMDb


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