Short on Words, Long on Feelings

Bronzeville Boys and Girls by Gwendolyn Brooks, 1956
Bronzeville Boys and Girls by Gwendolyn Brooks, 1956 (original cover)
Pulitzer Prize winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks
Pulitzer Prize winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000)

She is known for her poems about the black experience and the female experience.  But it is Gwendolyn Brooks’ poems about the “growing up” experience that first introduced me to this poet and her sparse, beautiful words.  Brooks wrote Bronzeville Boys and Girls for children in 1956.  Somehow, either by reaching back to her own youth or observing children in her Chicago neighborhood of Bronzeville, Brooks latched on to universal childhood feelings in these 34 short poems.  Here are a few snippets from some of them.


Children rarely walk from point a to point b, they run.  In the poem, “Paulette” we meet an eight-year-old girl whose mother wishes she’d start acting ladylike.  But Paulette is busy exploring the world around her. The poem begins and ends with the same question.

“What good is sun

If I can’t run?”

Children love their parents no matter what:  In “Andre” we meet a boy who dreams one night that he can choose any parents he wants.  He wakes suddenly knowing exactly which ones he’d pick.

“And this surprised and made me glad:

They were the ones I always had!”

Children don’t like change:  In “Lyle”, we meet a boy who has moved seven times in his young life and is about to move again.  He longs to be like the large tree in the back yard.

“Tree won’t pack his bag and go.

Tree won’t go away.

In his first and favorite home

Tree shall stay and stay.”

Children enjoy life for life’s sake:  In “Gertrude”, we see a young girl’s thoughts on hearing celebrated singer, Marian Anderson.

“Fingers tingle. I am cold

And warm and young and very old.

But most, I am a STUFFless thing

When I hear Marian Anderson sing.”

Bonus bit: Here is a video of Marian Anderson singing “Ave Maria.”  Close your eyes and you too will become a “STUFFless” thing.

Question:  April is National Poetry Month.  Do you have a favorite poet or poem?

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