Gwendolyn Brooks

Brooks was Named U.S. Poet Laureate for (1985–1986)

Gwendolyn Brooks photo

Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks (June 7, 1917 to December 3, 2000) was born in Topeka, Kansas. Based in Chicago, she graduated from Wilson Junior College there (1936) and was publicity director for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Chicago (1930s). She taught at many institutions and succeeded Carl Sandburg as poet laureate of Illinois (1968). Her verse narrative Annie Allen (1949) won the first Pulitzer Prize awarded to an African-American woman (1950).  She was appointed Poet Laureate of Illinois in 1968 and Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1985 to 1986.

She also received an American Academy of Arts and Letters award, the Frost Medal, a National Endowment for the Arts award, the Shelley Memorial Award, and fellowships from The Academy of American Poets and the Guggenheim Foundation. She lived in Chicago until her death.

Check out the 2019 children’ book describing Brook’s life and poetry, A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks by Alice Faye Duncan and Illustrated by Xia Gordon.

Poems by Gwendolyn Brooks

We Real Cool
The Pool Players
Seven at the Golden Shovel
We real cool. We
Left school. We
Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We
Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We
Jazz June. We
Die soon.

Sadie and Maud
Maud went to college.
Sadie stayed home.
Sadie scraped life
With a fine toothed comb.
She didn’t leave a tangle in
Her comb found every strand.
Sadie was one of the livinigest chits
In all the land.
Sadie bore two babies
Under her maiden name.
Maud and Ma and Papa
Nearly died of shame.
When Sadie said her last so-long
Her girls struck out from home.
(Sadie left as heritage
Her fine-toothed comb.)
Maud, who went to college,
Is a thin brown mouse.
She is living all alone
In this old house.

The Bean Eaters 
They eat beans mostly, this old yellow pair,
Dinner is a casual affair.
Plain chipware on a plain and creaking wood,
Tin flatware.
Two who are Mostly Good.
Two who have lived their day,
But keep on putting on their clothes
And putting things away.
And remembering…
Remembering, with twinklings and twinges,
As they lean over the beans in their rented back room
that is full of beads and receipts and dolls and
cloths, tobacco crumbs, vases and fringes.

The Crazy Woman
I shall not sing a May song.
A May song should be gay.
I’ll wait until November
And sing a song of gray.
I’ll wait until November
That is the time for me.
I’ll go out in the frosty dark
And sing most terribly.
And all the little people
Will stare at me and say,
“That is the Crazy Woman
Who would not sing in May.”

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10 Books by Gwendolyn Brooks