Gwendolyn Brooks

Gwendolyn Brooks: On "The Ballad of Rudolph Reed"

A man who has wanted to improve his family's environment moves into a previously all-white neighborhood.  His neighbors are horrified by this intrusion.  There is violence, and he is killed.

Main feature--the great yearning of man-in-misery for betterment, and his eventual irresistible reach for it.

Today, the general black decision would be that bandages are not enough.

Brooks, Gwendolyn.  Report from Part One.  Detroit: Broadside Press, 1972.

Gwendolyn Brooks: On "Gay Chaps at the Bar"

["Gay Chaps at the Bar" is] A sonnet series in off-rhyme, because I felt it was an off-rhyme situation--I did think of that.  I first wrote the one sonnet, without thinking extensions.  I wrote it because of a letter I got from a soldier who included that phrase in what he was telling me; and then I said, there are other things to say about what's going on at the front and all, and I'll write more poems, some of them based on the stuff of letters that I was getting from several soldiers, and I felt it would be good to have them all in the same form, because it would serve my purposes throughout.

Brooks, Gwendolyn.  Report from Part One.  Detroit: Broadside Press, 1972.

Gwendolyn Bennett's Short Story "Wedding Day" (1926)

His name was Paul Watson and as he shambled down rue Pigalle he might have been any other Negro of enormous height and size. But as I have said, his name was Paul Watson. Passing him on the street, you might not have known or cared who he was, but any one of the residents about the great Montmartre district of Paris could have told you who he was as well as many interesting bits of his personal history.

George Stavros: An Interview on "We Real Cool"

Q. How about the seven pool players in the poem "We Real Cool"? 

A. They have no pretensions to any glamor. They are supposedly dropouts, or at least they're in the poolroom when they should possibly be in school, since they're probably young enough, or at least those I saw were when I looked in a poolroom, and they. . . . First of all, let me tell you how that's supposed to be said, because there's a reason why I set it out as I did. These are people who are essentially saying, "Kilroy is here. We are." But they're a little uncertain of the strength of their identity. [Reads:]

We real cool. We  Left school. We 

Lurk late. We  Strike straight. We 

Sing sin. We  Thin gin. We 

Jazz June. We  Die soon.

The "We"—you're supposed to stop after the "We" and think about their validity, and of course there's no way for you to tell whether it should be said softly or not, I suppose, but I say it rather softly because I want to represent their basic uncertainty, which they don't bother to question every day, of course.

Q. Are you saying that the form of this poem, then, was determined by the colloquial rhythm you were trying to catch?

 A. No, determined by my feeling about these boys, these young men. 

Q. These short lines, then, are your own invention at this point? You don't have any literary model in mind; you're not thinking of Eliot or Pound or anybody in particular . . . ? 

A. My gosh, no! I don't even admire Pound, but I do like, for instance, Eliot's "Prufrock" and The Waste Land, "Portrait of a Lady," and some others of those earlier poems. But nothing of the sort ever entered my mind. When I start writing a poem, I don't think about models or about what anybody else in the world has done.

From "An Interview with Gwendolyn Brooks" in Contemporary Literature 11:1 (Winter 1970).