The Relation of Gwendolyn Brooks’ Formal Choices to the Life Choices of Her Characters

When a poet and a scholar find that they both share a love for Gwendolyn Brooks, who in 1950 became the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, and get asked to write a paper on it, they contemplate how to begin. Each is drawn to Brooks for different reasons. For the poet, Brooks is a predecessor and an inspiration, verifying her sense that Eurocentric accentual-syllabic forms and black American life experiences can be brought together to manifest beautiful verse. For the scholar, Brooks is a kind of puzzle—what is she saying, especially in her more difficult poems? And what are the implications for literature? Can the poet and the scholar find a way to articulate separate adorations for Brooks and simultaneously write something that speaks to the common man?