Monday Afternoon Poetry

Each week we bring you a poet, some of their work, and leave the rest up to you.

This week’s poet is Gwendolyn Brooks.


Gwendolyn Brooks was born in 1917 in Topeka, Kansas before moving to Chicago, where she grew up.  She was encouraged to write by her parents, and her first poem was published in a children’s magazine when she was 13.  By 17 she had a collection of 75 published poems, and was regularly submitting to The Chicago Defender an African-American newspaper.  After her first book was published she gained immediate critical acclaim.  She taught at Columbia College Chicago, Northeaster Illinois University, Chicago State University, Elmhurst College, Columbia University, Clay College of New York and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Brooks was married and had two children.  She died in Chicago in in 2000 at 83.


Gwendolyn received much critical acclaim throughout her life, including a Guggenheim fellowship.  Other honors include: “Ten Young Women of the Year” in Mademoiselle Magazine in 1945.  She was the first African-American recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, she became Poet Laureate in 1985,and she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.  In 1994 she was chosen as the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Jefferson Lecturer, the highest award in humanities given by the national government.  In 1995 she was presented with the National Medal of Arts.


hunchback girl: she thinks of heaven

My Father, it is surely a blue place
And straight.  Right.  Regular.  Where I shall find
No need for scholarly nonchalance or looks
A little to the left or guards upon the
Heart to halt love that runs without crookedness
Along its crooked corridors.  My Father,
It is a planned place surely.  Out of coils,
Unscrewed, released, no more to be marvelous,
I shall walk straightly through most proper halls
Proper myself, princess of properness.


You have no words for soldiers to enjoy
The Feel of, as an apple, and to chew
With masculine satisfaction. Not “good-by!”
“Come back!” or “careful!”  Look, and let him go.
Insistence of an idle desperations
Since could he favor he would favor now.
He will be “careful!” if he has permission.
Looking is better.  At the dissolution
Grab greatly with the eye, crush in a seel
Of study–Even that is vain.  Expression,
The touch or look or word, will little avail,
The brawniest will not beat back the storm
Nor the heaviest haul your little boy from harm.

pygmies are pugmies still, though
percht on Alps”
            -Edward young

But can see better there, and laughing there
Pity the giants wallowing on the plain.
Giants who bleat and chafe in their small grass,
Seldom to spread the palm; to spit; come clean.

Pygmies expand in the cold impossible air,
Cry fie on giantshine, poor glory which
Pounds breast-bone punily, screeches, and has
Reached no Alps; or, knows to Alps to reach.

The essential Gwendolyn Brooks  is a book I would recommend to everyone.  Many of her poems are long, too long for a blog, but there is wonderful imagery and word play.  Buy it on Amazon.

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