Gwendolyn Brooks: Overview

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Editor: Jim Kamp
Date: 1994
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 960 words

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The recipient of a Pulitzer Prize in 1950 for her volume of poetry Annie Allen, Gwendolyn Brooks stands as one of the premier American poets of the twentieth century. Brooks writes both powerfully and universally out of the black American milieu, exploring the nature of racism, sexism, and classism in the United States in a distinctive poetic style. In her poetry, Brooks experiments with a wide range of narrative and poetic strategies, exploring the spectrum of American social, economic, and cultural problems. Throughout her diverse work, Brooks's most consistent achievement is her marriage of poetry and politics. Her poems may sometimes be bitter, angry, or threatening, but they always maintain an aesthetic and resist being read merely as propaganda.

By often focusing on characters who live in urban ghettos or who are members of disempowered communities, Brooks depicts the struggles as well as the triumphs of the American underclass. Brooks not only explores the nature of racial relations and racial justice in her poetry, she addresses the plight of women in America as well as the vital quest for personal and national peace. Houston A. Baker Jr. has noted in A Life Distilled: Gwendolyn Brooks, Her Poetry and Fiction that Brook's characters and the subjects of her poetry "transcend the ghetto life of many black Americans. They reflect the joy of childhood, the burdens and contentment of motherhood, the distortions of the war-torn psyche, the horror of blood-guiltiness, and the...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420001092