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Analysis On "We Real Cool" By Gwendolyn Brooks

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The poem "We Real Cool" by Gwendolyn Brooks is a stream of the thoughts of poor inner city African-Americans who have adopted a hoodlum lifestyle. Though many can have different interpretations of this poem, it is fair to look at the life and career or the works and influences of Gwendolyn Brooks.

The life and art of the black American poet, Gwendolyn Brooks, began on June 7, 1917 when she was born in Topeka, Kansas. She was the first child of Keziah Corine Wims and David Anderson Brooks. When she was four, her family moved to their permanent residence on Champlin Avenue in Chicago. Her deep interest in poetry consumed much of her early life. For instance, Brooks began rhyming at the age of seven. When she was thirteen, she had her first poem, "Eventide", published in American Childhood Magazine. Her first experience of high school came from the primary white high school in the city, Hyde Park High School. Thereafter, she transferred to an all-black high school and then to the integrated Englewood High School. By 1934, Brooks had become a member of the staff of the Chicago Defender and had published almost one hundred of her poems in a weekly poetry column. In 1936, she graduated from Wilson Junior College.

Another part of her life came as she married Henry Blakely just two years after she graduated from college. At the age of twenty-three, Brooks had her first child, Henry, Jr., and by 1943, she had won the Midwestern Writers Conference Poetry Award. Her first book of poetry, published in 1945, altered a commonly held view about the production of black arts in America but also brought her instant critical acclaim. In addition, she has accompanied several other awards, which includes two Guggenheim awards, appointment as Poet Laureate of Illinois, and the National Endowment for the Arts Lifetime Achievement Award. Brooks was the first African-American writer both win the Pulitzer Prize and to be appointed to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Brooks received more than fifty honorary doctorates from colleges and universities. Her first teaching job was at a poetry workshop at Columbia College in Chicago. In 1969, the Gwendolyn Brooks Cultural Center opened on the campus of Western Illinois University. She went on to teach creative writing at a number of institutions including Northeastern Illinois University, Elmhurst College, and the University of Wisconsin. She has published more than twenty books in her lifetime. After a lifetime of skilled verse writing, Brooks died of cancer in December 2000 when she was 83 years old.

The works of Gwendolyn Brooks has gone through several changes throughout her career. When she first published in 1945, she was eager to be understood by strangers. In her last two poetical collections, however, she has dumped that attitude and gone "black". Her change then led her from a major publishing house to smaller black ones. While some critics found an angrier tone in her work, elements of protest had always been present in her writing. Her poetry moves from traditional forms including sonnets, ballads, variations of the Chaucerian and Spenserian stanzas, and the rhythm of the blues to the most unrestricted free verse. To sum up, the popular forms of English poetry appear in her work, but there is some testing as she puts together lyric, narrative, and dramatic poetic forms. In her narrative poetry, the stories are simple but usually go beyond the restrictions of place. In her dramatic poetry, the characters are often memorable because they are everyday survivors not heroes. Her characters are drawn from the underclass of the nation's black slums. Like many urban writers, Brooks has recorded the impact of city life. However, aside from most committed naturalists, she does not entirely blame the city for what happens to people. The city is simply an existing force with which people must deal with. The most dominant theme in Brooks's work is the impact of ethnicity and life experiences on one's view of life.

There are many questions to what inspiration Gwendolyn Brooks had as a poet. Most importantly, Brooks grew up in the slums of Chicago and what her family lacked in material wealth was made up by warm interpersonal relationships. A few years after her first poem was published, she met James Weldon Johnson and Langston Hughes, who urged her to read modern poetry and emphasized the need to write as often as she could. A turning point in her career came when she attended the Fisk University Second Black Writers' Conference and decided to become more involved in the Black Arts movement. Therefore, becoming the leader of one part of the Black Arts movement in Chicago did not severely change her poetry, but there were some slight changes. Though the Harlem Renaissance had fizzled out a decade earlier, it had established a blueprint of artistic responsibility for later poets like Brooks. Brooks took up the mantle defined



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