Monday, February 1, 2010

Gwendolyn Brooks

Was there ever a poet with such a sense of rhythm?

Langston Hughes was known for bringing jazz rhythms to poetry, but Brooks just might perfect the technique.  She riffs.  She slides.  There's a way she has of putting language in your face, of saying this is my neighborhood, of being blunt, of telling matters of fact, of showing readers what we'd most like to turn from, of asking us what we're going to do about it.

And yet, there's no self-pity here.  In "The Boy Died in My Alley" in particular, the speaker implicates his/her own complicity in the murder of the boy: "The red floor of my alley/ is a silent speech to me" (40-41).  This speaker, like we the readers, had ignored the boy--

He cried not only "Father!"
but "Mother!
Brother."  (30-33)

Why the period after "Brother" after all the more emphatic cries?  It changes the way I read that line entirely--it takes it down from panic to plea.

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