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The Images of Back Children in Gwendolyn Brook's Poetry: A Study

BY: p.suresh kumar R.panneerselvam | Category: Education | Submitted: 2012-04-13 08:18:42
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Article Summary: "Abstract:Gwndolyn Brook's poetic career ranges from obscure beginning to pinnacles of fame. Born and brought up in the urban ghettos of Bronzeville, she won the first major award in 1943 at the Midwestern writers'conference, and has today come to be recognized as the grand dame of twentieth century American poetry.."


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In between, her poetic achievement is marked by gradual and progressive ascent. She became the first African American poet to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1950, membership of the Academy if Arts and Letters un 1976, winning if two Guggenheim awards, poet laureateship of Illinois in 1968, the award by the National Endowment for Arts in 1989,JJeffrson lectureship by the National Endowments of the Humanities in 1994, the National Medals of Arts award in 1995, the "First Woman" award from the Federal Government in 1999, and more than fifty honorary decorates from various colleges and universities.

Brools's creative output extends over a period of six decades. Her poetry is distinctive not only in her handling of multiplicity of forms but also in her craftsmanship. She has committed herself to the ideals of social justice for her race and sex as well as ro the aesthetics of art. The issues of racism and an authentic identity have been the recurrent themes of African American Writers. Witnessing the growth of black literature by stages-form anger to defiance, to protest, to recognition, to search for identity, and to reconciliation, Brooks wrote poetry that was at once potent, provocative, poignant, and starling, a poetry that resisted racism, asserted black consciousness, and upheld the black values, a poetry that instilled a new faith in self-reliance and dignity, and a poetry that can be a source of inspiration of succeeding generations writers.
A study of Brooks's poetry will be incomplete without a study of her poetry for children, who also encounter the same kind of racial discrimination which the adult balcks are subjected to in the racially prejudiced America. Before 1967, Brooks published only one volume of poetry ofr children: Bronzeville Boys and Gorls(1956). The book consists of thirty-four poems, which are illustrated by Ronnai Solbert. All these poems portray the individual experiences of thirty-seven children, but Brooks is objective and detached in her portrayal of these boys and girls.

In poems written in couplets, the first line rhymes with the second, the third line rhymes with the foruth, and so on:
I have a secret place to go.
Not any one may know.

And sometimes when the wind is rough
I cannot get there fast enough
("Keziah"1-4)
Brooks is sensitive to the prosodic features of language:


It SUSHES.
It hushes
The loudness in the road
It flitter-twitters,
And laughs away from me.
It laughs a lovely whiteness,
And whitely whirs away,
To be
Some other where,
Still white as milk or shirts.
So beautiful it hurts.

The compound image "flitter-twitter" defines the delicate motion of the snow. The onomatopoeic words "SUSHES" and "hushes" convey the power of the silent and quite snow to quell "the loudness in the road." "Loudness" suggests the traffic and noise, which stand in opposition to the silence of the world of nature. The irregular length of the lines suggests the irregular but the motion of the snow.

Further, Brooks's poems for children cannot be categorized as nonsense verses. On the contrary, they are sensible verses. Though they appeal to our imagination, the children in her poems do not live in a pastoral, romantic, or idealized world. They are always the poor black children living in the urban ghettos. They suffer poverty and entrapment. In Gwendolyn Brooks: Poetry and the Heroic voice, Melhem argues that Brooks" Acknowldges no cruel children but implies cruelty, the indifference that sanctions poverty and compels children to be prematurely involved in adult problems" (95).
Brooks's description of the bleak experience of children is an compiled protest against the socioeconomic injustices that they encounter. In "John, who is Poor," Brooks depicts the poverty of the black boy, John, who lives with his widowed mother. She request the children in the neighborhood to sympathize with him, and share their eatables with him:
Oh, little children, be good to John!-
Who lives so lone and alone.

Whose Mamma must hurry to toil all day.
Whose papa is dead and done.

Give him a berry, boys, when you may,
And Girls, some mint when you can. (1-6)

But the poet dies not know" when his hunger will end, No yet when it began" (7-8).Brooks makes it clear that racial oppression is the causes of the sufferings of the black children. But her criticism is not overt. Further, she is objective in her description of their poverty, In keeping with the mood of the 1940s and1950s, she beloved that the whites would help the blacks solve their problems. But it took about eleven years, for her, from the year of her publication of Bronzeville Boys and Girls (1956), to realize that the whites remained indifferent to the problems of the blacks.

After 1967, Brooks published three volumes of poetry for Children: Alones, The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves, and Children Coming Home. In Aloness (1971), A reflective poem of fifty-one lines, Brooks projects a child's experience of solitude. The drawings by Leroy Foster present an appealing little black boy. The nine postures of the boy are indicative of this none different moods. Unlike Bronzeville Boys and Girls, which is written in quatrains and couplets with rhyme, Aloneness is written in free verse without rhyme. It is written from the point of view of the black boy, who defines loneliness as the pain of being alone: "Loneliness means you want somebody./You have not planned to stand somewhere with other people gone./ Loneliness never has a brought color . Perhaps it is gray"1-3_). As the speaker is a child, the images are simple. The child imagines that the couloirs of loneliness are "gray." The implied idea is the child's association of the color of loneliness with the4 black people's collective loneliness in the racially oppressive America. The child defines aloneness/solitude as the pleasure of beings alone: "But aloneness is delicious" (9). He compares aloneness with" a red small apple" (12). Then he turns to the image of a pond. Aloneness is "like loving a pond in summer," a simile that graphs the child's experience of place and time (15). Nowhere does the poem mention about racial discrimination. But the poem is educational in tone. Brooks's aim is to develop a positive sense of identity among blacks.

While Aloneness is in free verse, The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves or What You are You are is rhymed like" Bronzeville Boys and Girls." The poem is illustrated by the drawings of Timothy Jones. It is a beast fable. Unlike Aloneness, Which is indirectly didactic, The Tiger is directly didactic, offering strategies for survival. The title implies human folly. The tiger wears white gloves to be fashionable, but his companions ridicule his strange behavior. The theme is self-acceptance and pride:

IT'S NATURE'S
NICE DECREE
THAT TIGER FLOCK
SHOULD BE
NOT DAINTY,
BUT DARING,
AQND WISELY WEARING
WHAT'S FIERCR AS THE FACE.S
NOT WHITNESS AND LACE. (15-23)

The "tiger" represents the black people. "Whiteness" Represents the spurious standards of beauty established by the whites. As a metaphor, "gloves" represents phenomena like the black people's return to hair-straightening, which, for Brooks, means aping the white values. The idea is that black is that black people should develop their own attributes and esteem them.

As a realist, Brooks always portrays what the blacks experience in society. Despite her commitment to black consciousness, she has not forgotten the continuous bleak experiences of the black-adults as well as children. the volume children coming home!1991), Brooks's children do not live in a romantic or an idealized world. They encounter social and economic injustices. In the prefatory poem, "After School," Brooks delineates the odds against children:

* Not all of the children
* Come home to cookies and coca.
* One will be shot on his way home to warmth, wit and wisdom. [t/o]
* One teacher mutters"My God, they are gone,"[t/o]
* One is ripe to report Ten People to the Principal. [t/o]
*One whispers"The Little Black Bastards."

The poem attests to the simplicity of her poetry written after 1967. In this dramatic monologue, written in a child's voice, Brooks has abandoned lyricism and rhyme, and "deliberately abandoning the formal virtuosity that characterized her earlier work, Brooks represents children's voices through a seemingly simple, declarative method... (Flynnn494). The image of the innocent child exposes the evils of the social practices. Brooks's intention behind the exposition is to make the children" seek out their own strength" (495).

References:
Brooks. Gwendolyn. Bronzeville Boys and Girals. New York: Harper, 1956.
---. Aloneness. Dotroit: Broadside, 1969.
---.The Near-Johannesburg Boy, and Other Poems. Chicago: David, 1987.
---.The tiger who wore white Gloves: Or You Are What You Are. Chicago: Third world. 1987.
---.Children Coming Home. cChicago:David,1991
Flynn, Richard. 'The Kindergarten of New Consciousness':
Cwendolyon Brooks and the Social Construction of Childhood."
African American Review 34.3(2000):483-99.
Melhem,D.H. Gwendolyn Brooks: Poetry and the Heroic Voice. Kentucky: Up of Kentucky, 1989.

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