Hi, today would have been one of my favourite poets birthday, Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks (1917 -2000), born June 7th in 1917, in Kansas. She was an American poet, author, and teacher, her work often dealt with the personal joys and struggles of ordinary people. A much honoured poet, she won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry on May 1, 1950 the first Black author to win this award, she was also named the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress for the 1985–86 term. In 1976, she became the first African-American woman inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Although born in Kansas her family moved to Chicago when she was young, she was only 13 years old when her first published poem, “Eventide,” appearing in American Childhood. In the mid-sixties, Brooks’ work took on a political tone, she became an activist concerned with social problems, her brilliance is shown in her regard and respect for people of all walks of life without sentimentality.
She has inspired many people, poet Terrance Hayes, whose poem “Golden Shovel” is based on Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool” – I have talked about this in a previous blog see below:
Gwendolyn reads We Real Cool:
In her poem ‘kitchen building’ she reveals to us, through her beautiful use of words, how reality under such adverse conditions is complicated, the poem is alive, full of sounds and taste laced with desperation, loss and compromise.