By Elizabeth Leclerc
From the year 1917 to 2000, Gwendolyn Brooks lived a long and fulfilling 83 years. Though she was only a poet for 70 of those years, she made a large impact on the world around us. The future was changed for the better not only because of her music, but because of her power to show that African-American women are extraordinary.
Her mother (Keziah Wims Brooks) always pushed her to become a writer. Her mother told her that she was going to be the next ‘Paul Laurence Dunbar’ (an American poet). She transferred between 3 different high schools, one was an all white student body, another all black student body and the third was a mixture. After high school she didn’t follow others to take a four year degree at college, instead she pursued a two year education at Wilson Junior College (which is now known as Kennedy-King College). This college would set the groundwork for her career in writing. With her switching high schools so many times and her choice of going to a two year college, she was faced with a lot of racial injustice.
Her thoughts towards “the black aesthetic” changed when she attended a conference at Fisk University for Second Black Writers. She became more involved in the Black Arts Movement. Going to this conference changed her aspect of social issues. She took this into her own hands and started focusing on writing about African-American issues with the society that was being built around her.
Besides her successful poetry, she has also written books that were just as successful. Her book names include “Maud Martha” which was published in 1953, and Bronzeville Boys and Girls” which was published in 1956. Her most famous poetry “We Real Cool”, “The Mother”, and “To Be In Love”. While conducting research on Gwendolyn Brooks, I have found one specific poem that really stuck out to me as one that can reach anyone and everyone in some type of way, “The Children of the Poor”.
In the first stanza of her poem “The Children of the Poor” she explains the importance of parents who don’t have children. Brooks mentions how adults who don’t have children can have more of a strict authority. “People who have no children can be hard: Attain a mail of ice and insolence:Need not pause in the fire, and in no sense Hesitate in the hurricane to guard”. These first four lines are extremely important for the entire poem. They grab the audience’s attention and give a better understanding to what the poet is trying to get across. The next four lines go into more depth about how these specific adulta act when it comes to discipline of a child. Since they don’t have children of their own, they are unfamiliar with the concept of discipline and consequences. I interpret this part of the stanza as an adult that doesn’t fully grasp the understanding of what children need to hear when something they’ve done it wrong. The last six lines of this stanza mention the reaction from the children themselves. How they may whine, cry, express their feelings in ways that the adult wouldn’t understand how to respond to. I think that this entire stanza represents the importance of knowing your audience.
The second stanza starts with, what I think, a important introduction to giving to children. ?What shall I give my children? who are poor, Who are adjudged the leastwise of the land, Who are my sweetest lepers, who demand No velvet and no velvety velour;”. This introduction to the second stanza shows the importance to Brooks aspect of helping children in need vs. helping children with wants. She continues to explain that children who cry for what they want don’t necessarily need it. Children who don’t ask or cry for anything are usually in need of the most valuable things in life. Brooks explains that love and affection are the most important things to children. They need to know that there is someone there for them, to care and love them no matter what happens throughout their life.
Now looking at the third and final stanza of this poem, we as the readers can read that Gwendolyn Brooks talks about how to show your children to a new life. She explains that some adults may show children a religion or a common area in life that they can get used to or become more familiar with. Where other adults want the children to explore life for itself. “I shall wait, if you wish: revise the psalm If that should frighten you: sew up belief If that should tear: turn, singularly calm”. These three lines truly stuck out to me in showing me that some adults don’t have to be parents, they can be adult figures in children’s lives that help guide them through their life.
In conclusion, Gwendolyn Brooks shows us that no matter what age in life that you are, skin color or religion, you can be an impact in someone’s life and help them through a lot. It’s important that we listen to the words that Brooks says because we can learn a lot of important information from her. Even the little things count.