One of the groundbreaking poets of the 20th century, Gwendolyn Brooks produced a body of work that is incredibly intelligent, musical, and inventive. She is most famous for her crisply vivid lyric “The Pool Players” (“We real cool.”), but to read that fine poem and think you know her writing is to miss out on some amazing and varied riches. The first black writer to win a Pulitzer Prize (in 1950 for Annie Allen, her second collection) and the first black woman to be poetry consultant to the Library of Congress (now known as the U.S. Poet Laureate), Ms. Brooks produced fiercely honest, compassionate work with often stunning craft, and that work deserves to be more widely read. We have three editions of her poetry available — Selected Poems ($12.99 Harper), which includes selections from books published through 1960 and a small group of poems from the early 1960s, as well as two essays about her and an interview; The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks ($20 Library of America, hardcover), edited and introduced by Elizabeth Alexander and drawing from her all her poetry; and Blacks ($19.95 Third World Press), the most extensive collection, containing her full-length books through 1968, including the novel Maud Martha, and many of her late poems. All of these books contain treasure. As usual, we’ll set up a loose circle of chairs, offer a little food and drink, play some audio, and invite you to dive in and read aloud some favorite pieces and share your thoughts. Please join us!
from “The Womanhood”
Life for my child is simple, and is good.
He knows his wish. Yes, but that is not all.
Because I know mine too.
And we both want joy of undeep and unabiding things,
Like kicking over a chair or throwing blocks out of a window
Or tipping over an icebox pan
Or snatching down curtains or fingering an electric outlet
Or a journey or a friend or an illegal kiss.
No. There is more to it than that.
It is that he has never been afraid.
Rather, he reaches out and lo the chair falls with a beautiful crash,
And the blocks fall, down on the people’s heads,
And the water comes slooshing sloppily out across the floor.
And so forth.
Not that success, for him, is sure, infallible.
But never has he been afraid to reach.
His lesions are legion.
But reaching is his rule.