DATE=2-18-01 TITLE=PEOPLE IN AMERICA #1809 - Gwendolyn Brooks BYLINE=Cynthia
Kirk VOICE ONE:
I'm Shirley Griffith.
And I'm Sarah Long with the VOA Special English program, PEOPLE IN AMERICA.
Today we tell about the life of award-winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks. She was the
first African American to win a (1)Pulitzer Prize for(2) Literature.
Gwendolyn Brooks wrote hundreds of(3) poems during her lifetime. She had more
than twenty books published. She was known around world for using (4)poetry to
increase understanding about black culture in America.
Gwendolyn Brooks wrote many poems about being black during the Nineteen-
Forties and Nineteen-Fifties. Her poems described conditions among the poor, (5) racial
inequality and drug use in the black community. She also wrote poems about the
struggles of black women.
But her skill was more than her ability to write about struggling black people. She
was an expert at the language of poetry. She(6) combined traditional European poetry
styles with the African American experience.
Gwendolyn Brooks once said that she wrote about what she saw and heard in the
street. She said she found most of her material looking out of the window of her second-
floor (7)apartment house in Chicago, Illinois.
In her early poetry, Gwendolyn Brooks wrote about the South Side of Chicago. The
South Side of Chicago is where many black people live. In her poems, the South Side is
called Bronzeville. It was "A Street in Bronzeville" that gained the attention of literary
experts in Nineteen-Forty-Five. Critics praised her poetic skill and her powerful
descriptions about the black experience during the time. The Bronzeville poems were her
first published collection.
Here she is reading from her Nineteen-Forty-Five collection, "A Street in
CUT ONE - GWENDOLYN BROOKS
"My father, it is surely a blue place and straight. Right, regular, where I shall find no
need for(8) scholarly nonchalance or looks a little to the left or guards upon the heart."
In Nineteen-Fifty, Gwendolyn Brooks became the first African-American to win the
Pulitzer Prize for Literature. She won the prize for her second book of poems called
"Annie Allen." "Annie Allen" is a collection of poetry about the life of a Bronzeville girl as a
daughter, a wife and mother. She experiences (9)loneliness, loss, death and being poor.
Mizz Brooks said that winning the prize changed her life.
Her next work was a novel written in Nineteen-Fifty-Three called "Maud Martha."
"Maud Martha" received little notice when it first published. But now it is considered an
important work by some critics. Its main ideas about the difficult life of many women are
popular among (10)female writers today.
Gwendolyn Brooks wrote poems about the black experience in America. She
described the anger many blacks had about racial(11) injustice and the feeling of being
different. She used poetry to (12)criticize those who did not show respect for the poor.
Yet for all the anger in her writing, Gwendolyn Brooks was considered by many to be a
(13)gentle spirit and a very giving person.
By the early Nineteen-Sixties, Mizz Brooks had reached a high(14) point in her
writing career. She was considered one of America's leading black writers. She was a
popular teacher. She was praised for her use of language and the way people
(15)identified with her writing.
Gwendolyn Brooks was born in Topeka, Kansas in Nineteen-Seventeen. But she grew up in Chicago. She began writing when she was eleven years old. She mailed
several poems to a (16)community newspaper in Chicago to surprise her family.
In a radio broadcast in Nineteen-Sixty-One, Mizz Brooks said her mother (17)urged
her to develop her poetic skills:
CUT TWO - GWENDOLYN BROOKS
"My mother took me to the library when I was about four or five. I enjoyed reading poetry and I tried to write it when I was about seven, at the time that I first tried to put(18)
rhymes together. And I have loved it ever since."
Gwendolyn Brooks married Henry L. Blakely in Nineteen-Thirty-Nine. Henry Blakely was a young writer who later published his own poetry. They lived in Chicago for the next
thirty years, (19) divorced in Nineteen-Sixty-Nine, but re-united in Nineteen-Seventy-
Three. They had two children, Nora Brooks Blakely and Henry Blakely.
Throughout her life, Mizz Brooks supported herself through speaking (20)appearances, poetry readings and part time teaching in colleges. She also received
money from organizations that offered grants designed to support the arts.
One of Gwendolyn Brooks most famous poems is called "We Real Cool". It is a short poem that talks about young people feeling hopeless:
"We real cool. We left school. We (21)lurk late. We strike straight. We sing sin. We
thin (22)gin. We jazz June. We die soon."
By the end of the Nineteen-Sixties, Gwendolyn Brooks's poetry expanded from the everyday experiences of people in Bronzeville. She wrote about a wider world and dealt
with important political issues. She won praise for her sharper, real-life poetic style.
Gwendolyn Brooks was affected by the civil rights struggles and social changes taking place in America. She began to question her relations with whites. She said she
felt that black poets should write for black people.
That became (23)evident in her next collection of poetry in Nineteen-Sixty-Eight
called "In the Mecca." Critics suggested Mizz Brooks had become too political and
seemed to be writing only for black people. Her new poems received little notice in the
In some of her poems, Gwendolyn Brooks' described how what people see in life is affected by who they are. One example is this poem, "Corners on the Curving Sky":
Our earth is round, and, among other things
That means that you and I can hold completely different
Points of view and both be right.
The difference of our positions will show
Stars in your window. I cannot even imagine.
Your sky may burn with light,
While mine, at the same moment,
Spreads beautiful to darkness.
Still, we must choose how we separately corner
The circling universe of our experience
Once chosen, our cornering will determine
The message of any star and darkness we
Although her poetry did not receive much notice in the press, Gwendolyn Brooks continued to receive honors. She was chosen poet (24)laureate of the state of (25)Illinois
in Nineteen-Sixty-Eight. In Nineteen-Seventy-Six, she became the first black woman to
be elected to the National (26)Institute of Arts and Letters.
She received a lifetime achievement award from the National(27) Endowment of the
Arts in Nineteen-Eighty-Nine. And she was named the Nineteen-Ninety-Four Jefferson
Lecturer by the National Endowment of the (28)Humanities. That is the highest honor given by the federal government for work in the humanities.
Mizz Brooks once said that of all the awards she received, there was only one that
meant a lot to her. It was given to her at a (29)workshop in an old theater in Chicago. She said "I was given an award for just being me, and that's what poetry is to me - just being
Although she was well-known, Gwendolyn Brooks lived a quiet life. She said her
greatest interest was being involved with young people. She spent time giving readings
at schools, prisons and hospitals. She also attended yearly poetry competitions for
Chicago children. She often paid for the awards given to the winners.
Haki Madhubuti directs the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Creative Writing and
Black Literature at Chicago State University. He said Mizz Brooks felt children would help
lead the way toward healing the wounds of the United States civil rights movement of the
Nineteen-Sixties. One young student talked about how Mizz Brooks' poetry affected her.
She said that(30)Gwendolyn Brooks' writings influenced her to write down how she truly
feel deep inside.
Gwendolyn Brooks influenced many African-American writers. Friends say her
prize-winning works also helped other black Americans to develop their own sense of
(31)identity and culture.
Doctors discovered Mizz Brooks had cancer in November, Two-Thousand. She died
December Third at her home in Chicago. She was eighty-three.
The (32)funeral service was held on the South Side, the same area of the city that
had been a window for much of Mizz Brooks's poetry. The service was at times filled with
laughter. There were warm remembrances of a woman whose life and words had
touched people forever. African(33) drums sounded and dancers leaped.
Gwendolyn Brooks worked right up to the end of her life. Her most recent collection
of poems, called "In Birmingham", will be published later this year.
This Special English program was written and produced by Cynthia Kirk. I'm Shirley
And I'm Sarah Long. Join us again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA
program on the Voice of America.
(1) Pulitzer[ ?????????]普利策
(2) literature[ ?????????? ]n.文学(作品), 文艺, 著作, 文献
(3) poem[ ???????????????]n.诗, 象诗一样, 美丽的东西 (4) poetry[ ???????????????????]n.诗, 作诗法, 诗意, 诗情
(5) racial[ ??????? ]adj.人种的, 种族的, 种族间的 (6) combined[ ????????? ]adj.组合的, 结合的 (7) apartment[ ?????????? ]n.<美>公寓住宅, 单元住宅, 房间 (8) scholarly[????????]adj.学者气质的, 学者风度的 (9) loneliness[??????????]n.孤独, 寂寞 (10)female[ ???????? ]n.女性, 女人, 雌兽adj.女性的, 女子的, 妇女的, 雌的,
(11) injustice[ ?????????? ]n.不公平, 不讲道义 (12) criticize[ ?????????? ]v.批评, 责备 (13) gentle[?????????]adj.温和的, 文雅的 (14) point[?????]n.点, 尖端, 分数, 要点, 分数vt.弄尖, 指向, 指出, 瞄准,
(15) identifier[???????????????]n.检验人, 标识符
(16) community[ ??????????? ]n.公社, 团体, 社会, (政治)共同体, 共有,
(17) urgence[???????]n.紧急, 紧急的事, 强求, 催促, 坚持 (18) rhyme[ ?????]n.韵, 押韵, 押韵的词vi.押韵, 作诗, 韵律和谐vt.使押韵, (19) divorced离婚的
(20) appearance[ ????????? ]n.出现, 露面, 外貌, 外观
(21) lurk[????? ]n.潜伏, 埋伏vi.潜藏, 潜伏, 埋伏
(22) gin[ ???? ]n.陷阱, 起重装, 轧棉机, 杜松子酒v.轧
(23) evident[ ???????? ]adj.明显的, 显然的
(24) laureate[ ???????? ]adj.佩戴桂冠的n.戴桂冠的人
(25) Illinois[???????????? ]n.伊利诺斯州(美国州名)
(26) institute[ ??????????? ]n.学会, 学院, 协会vt.创立, 开始, 制定, (27) endowment[ ?????????? ]n.捐赠, 捐赠的基金(或财产), 天资, 捐款 (28) humanities人文学科
(29) workshop[????????? ]n.车间, 工场
(30) Gwendolyn[ ?????????? ]n.格温多林(f.)
(31) identity[ ?????????? ]n.同一性, 身份, 一致, 特性, 恒等式 (32) funeral[ ?????????? ]n.葬礼, 出殡
(33) drum[ ???? ]n.鼓, 鼓声, [解]鼓膜, 鼓室vi.击鼓, 作鼓声vt.打鼓奏