Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000)

A selective list of online literary criticism for the mid-twentieth-century African American poet Gwendolyn Brooks, favoring signed articles by recognized scholars and articles published in peer-reviewed sources


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introduction & biography

"Gwendolyn Brooks." Introduction and biography, plus excerpts from influential critical commentary on these poems: We Real Cool; The Ballad of Rudolph Reed; Gay Chaps at the Bar. Also, an extended essay on "Gay Chaps at the Bar" by Susan Schweik; on "To the Diaspora"; another essay on "Gay Chaps at the Bar," by James Smethurst; on "De Witt Williams on his way to Lincoln Cemetery"; on "The Boy Died in My Alley." Also, interviews with Gwendolyn Brooks; about the Black Arts Movement; about World War II; about the sonnet; and Brooks's book jackets. Modern American Poetry (Univ. of Illinois). Ed. James Sullivan.

"Gwendolyn Brooks." Encyclopedia-type introduction to Gwendolyn Brooks's themes, style, and techniques, includes a biography of Brooks and text for some of her most famous poems. For many of the poems, audio files of Brooks herself reading are available. Also, a bibliography of her books and stories, and a selected secondary bibliography. Poetry Foundation.

"Gwendolyn Brooks." Very brief introduction to Brooks. Also, "Groundbreaking Book: The Bean Eaters by Gwendolyn Brooks. And "Brooks, H. D., and Rukeyser: Three Women Poets in the First Century of World Wars." By poet Marilyn Hacker. Academy of American Poets.

"An Interview with Gwendolyn Brooks." Conducted by George Stavros in 1969. Stavros questions Brooks about the meaning of some of her poems. Contemporary Literature 11, 1 (Winter, 1970).

"Gwendolyn Brooks." A profile of the poet, broadcast for the Voice of America, provides details about Gwendolyn Brooks's childhood, her early efforts to write poetry, and how her mother encouraged her. "She began writing when she was eleven years old. She mailed several poems to a community newspaper in Chicago to surprise her family. In a radio broadcast in 1961, Ms. Brooks said her mother urged her to develop her poetic skills: 'My mother took me to the library when I was about four or five. I enjoyed reading poetry and I tried to write it when I was about seven, at the time that I first tried to put rhymes together. And I have loved it ever since.'"

"Gwendolyn Brooks's Indispensable Maud Martha." A brief article on Gwendolyn Brooks's 1953 novel, Maud Martha, by Asali Solomon, National Public Radio.

Melhem, D.H. "Gwendolyn Brooks." A guide for teachers, from textbook publisher Heath.

How to write about poetry, from educational publisher A.B. Longman, uses "The Bean Eaters" as an example of a poem to analyze.

"Personal papers of Pulitzer-winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks join archives at UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library." Press release, 11 Jan 2001.

Gwendolyn Brooks's New York Times obituary, 5 Dec. 2000.

Jimoh, A. Yemisi. "Gwendolyn Brooks." Literary Encyclopedia. Eds. Robert Clark, Emory Elliott, Janet Todd. A substantial introduction to Gwendolyn Brooks, from a database that provides signed literary criticism by experts in their field, and is available to individuals for a reasonably-priced subscription [subscription service].


literary criticism

Clarke, Cheryl. "The Loss of Lyric Space and the Critique of Traditions in Gwendolyn Brooks's 'In the Mecca.' Kenyon Review 1 (Winter 1995) [free at jstor].

Cummings, Allison. "Public Subjects: Race and the Critical Reception of Gwendolyn Brooks, Erica Hunt, and Harryette Mullen." Frontiers 2005 [questia subscription service].

Gery, John. "Subversive Parody in the Early Poems of Gwendolyn Brooks." South Central Review 16, 1 (Spring 1999) [free at jstor].

Greasley, Philip A. "Gwendolyn Brooks: The Emerging Poetic Voice." The Great Lakes Review 10, 2 (Fall 1984) pp 14-23 [free at jstor].

Hansell, William H. "Essences, Unifyings, and Black Militancy: Major Themes in Gwendolyn Brooks's Family Pictures and Beckonings." Black American Literature Forum 11, 2 (Summer 1977) [first page only, jstor].

Horvath, Brooke Kenton. "The Satisfactions of what's Difficult in Gwendolyn Brooks's Poetry." On Brooks's style. American Literature 62, 4 (Dec. 1990) [preview of purchase, jstor].

Hughes, Gertrude Reif. "Making it Really New: Hilda Doolittle, Gwendolyn Brooks, and the Feminist Potential of Modern Poetry." American Quarterly 42, 3 (Sept. 1990) [free at jstor].

Jimoh, A. Yemisi. "Double Consciousness, Modernism, and Womanist Themes in Gwendolyn Brooks's 'The Anniad.'" MELUS 7 (Fall 1998) [first half of article only].

Lee, Don L. "The Achievement of Gwendolyn Brooks." The Black Scholar 3, 10 (Summer 1972) pp 32-41[free at jstor].

Lowney, John. "'A Material Collapse That Is Construction': History and Counter-Memory in Gwendolyn Brooks's 'In the Mecca.'" On the Mecca building on Chicago's South Side and its symbolism. MELUS 23, 3 (Autumn 1998) [first half of article only].

Ortega, Kirsten Bartholomew. "The Black Flaneuse: Gwendolyn Brooks's 'In the Mecca.'" Journal of Modern Literature 30, 4 (Summer 2007) [free at jstor].

Taylor, Henry. "Gwendolyn Brooks: An Essential Sanity." The Kenyon Review 13, 4 (Autumn 1991) pp 115-131 [free at jstor].


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