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Critical Insights: Gwendolyn Brooks

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.

This volume examines Brooks's work from myriad perspectives. Essay subjects include a reflection on Brooks's legacy, locating her work as a bridge between the poets of the Harlem Renaissance and the poets of the black arts movement, her careful balancing of craft with politics, and close readings of selections from A Street in Bronzeville, Annie Allen, The Bean Eaters, In the Mecca, Riot, and Family Pictures.

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