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Gwendolyn Brooks

With her stunning use of form and language, Gwendolyn Brooks is often considered one of the most innovative American poets of the twentieth century. More importantly, Brooks stands out as a post-Harlem Renaissance writer who speaks honestly and passionately about the black experience. Her early works focus on life in the predominantly black neighborhood on the south side of Chicago known as Bronzeville in the 1940s and 1950s. Both A Street in Bronzeville (1945) and Bronzeville Boys and Girls (1956) depict the everyday lives of blacks, while at the same time, highlighting the uniqueness and beauty of individual experience. Though both books begin with similar inspiration, there are significant differences between the poems in each, as A Street in Bronzeville deals with more adult subject matter, and Bronzeville Boys and Girls contains poetry meant for children. The symbolism in the two books differs because Brooks weaves social commentary into the poems of A Street in Bronzeville, but attempts a more simple goal in Bronzeville Boys and Girls: to give the children of Bronzeville not only the sense that there are others sharing their experience, but to provide positive images of black life as well.

Brooks is able to understand the Bronzeville experience because of her own childhood there, and her unflinching honesty provides a sympathetic view of the neighborhood and those who inhabit it. Her own experience in Bronzeville "provided her with ineffaceable images of the spiritual strength and dignity of 'common' people" (Werner 311). In A Street in Bronzeville, Brooks' first volume of poetry, the reader comes to understand that life in Bronzeville comes with many hardships, as she paints a dreary scene in a "kitchenette building": "But could a dream send up through onion fumes/Its white and violent, fight with fried potatoes/And yesterday's garbage ripening in the hall" (lines 5-7). Brooks describes a world where "'Dream' ...

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Gwendolyn Brooks. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 23:56, June 15, 2019, from