"Look at what's happening in this world. Every day there's something exciting or disturbing to write about. With all that's going on, how could I stop?"
--Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000)
"Very early in life I became fascinated with the wonders language can achieve. And I began playing with words."
At thirteen, her first poem was published in a children’s magazine. At sixteen, she had the impressive accomplishment of having 75-plus poems in various pulications. Her first book of poetry, A Street in Bronzeville, was published in 1945 by Harper and Row to critical acclaim.
The recipient of numerous awarsds, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for poetry—the first African American to receive the honor--Brooks was later named Poet Laureate of Illionois in 1968. and the Library of Congress’ Consultant in Poetry”, in 1985, a position that was later re-titled Poet Laureate.
Gweddolyn Brooks was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1988, and was chosen as the National Endowments for the Arts Humanities’ Jefferson Lecturer, in 1994. In 1995, she received the the National Medal of Arts, an award created by the United States Congress in 1984, to honor artists and patrons of the arts.
Rita Dove, herself Poet Laureate of the United States, (1993-1995) in a tribute to Brooks, recounted enountering the poems of Gwendolyn Brooks as a a teenager: the poems of Gwendolyn Brooks leapt off the pages of the book in my hands and struck me like a thunderbolt. These were words that spoke straight from the turbulent center of life--words that nourished like meat, not frosting. Yes, I was struck by these poems, poems with muscle and sinew, poems that weren't afraid to take the language and revamp it, twist it and energize it so that it shimmied and dashed and lingered.
She continued, I know that Gwendolyn Brooks was among the few who gave me the courage to insist on my own story. And though I never dreamed of following in her footsteps as far as the Pulitzer Prize, her shining example opened up new possibilities for me and generations of younger artists.
Such is the power of words. To move. To alter. To shape. To transform. Others certainly, but perhaps more importantly, ouselves. We write, with no assurance that others will read or feel the emotions we felt when we tried to put those feelings onto paper. Yet we write.
Brooks said of her self, "I felt that I had to write. Even if I had never been published, I knew that I would go on writing, enjoying it and experiencing the challenge."
Gwendolyn Brooks died in in 2000 at the age of 83.
To Submit a Poem
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Poems can be of any length.
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