TALK TO THE DADDY

Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Thank You, Lawd, for Gwendolyn Brooks

"That other poets have championed good writing and literature, have exposed evil in the world, have contributed mightily of personal revenues to the young, to the would-be-writers, to students and to the institutions of common good is without a doubt. However, the only poet who has made it her mission to incorporate all of this and more into a wonderful and dedicated lifestyle is Gwendolyn Brooks."
--poet Haki Madhubuti
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"I who have gone the gamut from an almost angry rejection of my dark skin by some of my brainwashed brothers and sisters to a surprised queenhood in the new Black sun am qualified to enter at least the kindergarten of new consciousness now... I have hopes for myself."
--Gwendolyn Brooks
--June 7, 1917-December 4, 2000
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Know what the daddy is going to do today? Read him some poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks. Tonight, he’s going to raise a glass of wine to the sky and thank God for giving him the gift of her presence.

Listen, Sistah. The daddy knows that you’re a transplant from Topeka, Kansas, that you graduated from Wilson Junior College in 1936, that you moved to Chicago and made the windy city your home ever since.

He knows that your first book, “A Street in Bronzeville,” a small set of poems about folks in your neighborhood, got a lot of dap; and he knows that your second book, “Annie Allen,” got more props still. In fact, you won the Pulitzer Prize for it in 1950. But that’s not why he wants to thank you.

Yes, he knows that, since getting that Pulitzer, you’ve written books for people of all ages: Maude Martha (1953), The Bean Eaters (1960), In the Mecca (1968), Riot (1969) and Jump Bad (1971), that anthology. And for such quality writing, you became the poet laureate of Illinois in 1968, received the Society for Literature Award from the University of Thessalonica in Athens, Greece, the first American to achieve this distinction.

But the daddy wants to thank you for making a lasting contribution to the development of American literature. America was not just another England but a nation of many people, all coming here for different reasons and with their own experiences, their own stories. In fact, America was a new nation full of different people with new experiences. These new experiences and new stories demanded a new kind of literature to capture them.

Walt Whitman talked about this need for a distinctly new literature. In the preface to “Leaves of Grass,” he wrote: “The American poets are to enclose old and new for America is the race of races. Of them, a bard is to be commensurate with a people. To him other continents arrive as contributions. He gives them reception for their sake and for his own sake.”

Speaking of African Americans, the great poet William Carlos Williams wrote: “The one thing that never seems to occur to anybody is that the Negroes have a quality which they have brought to America…Poised against the Mayflower is the slave ship-manned by the Yankees and Englishmen-bringing another race to try upon the New World…There is a solidity, a racial irreducible minimum, which gives them poise in a world where they have no authority.”

You showed the daddy that poise, that discipline, in your writing. You used the craft of poetry to shine a light on a distinct people, a “nation within nations,” to get us to see ourselves more clearly. In “Children of the Poor,” you let us put a cup on the side of a wall and hear a mother ask:

What shall I give my children? who are poor,
Who are adjudged the leastwise of the land,
Who are my sweetest lepers, who demand
No velvet and no Velvety velour;
But who have begged me for a brisk contour…
But I lack access to my proper stone
And plentitude or plan shall not suffice
And not grief nor love shall be enough alone
To ratify my little halves who bear
Across an autumn freezing every where.

In “The Pool Players. Seven at the Golden Shovel,” you welcomed the daddy into a neighborhood pool hall to peep the hand of hip black youth and to concisely divine their fate:

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

In “Malcolm X,” you showed us straight-up manhood and down-to-earth, mother-wit intelligence:

Original.
Hence ragged-round,
Hence rich-robust.

He had the hawk-man’s eye.
We gasped. We saw the maleness.
The maleness raking and making guttural the air
And pushing us to walls.

And in a soft and fundamental hour
A sorcery devout and vertical
Beguiled the world.

He opened us-
Who was a key.

Who was a man.

A thank-you prayer for Sistah Gwendolyn:

Thank you, Lawd, for bringing her into this world.
Thank you, Lawd, for placing her in our nation, our community, our
hearts--this gentle genius, this truthseeker who helped create, who
helped solidify a distinctly American literature, who
adapted traditional forms of poetry to a sun people in
a cold, distant land.
Thank you, Lawd, for Gwendolyn Brooks, a writer who
made causal rhymes sing like Aretha Franklin at
a black church in Detroit on Sunday, who
gives us a star each time we turn a page.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Amen.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

"He opened us-
Who was a key...."

I like that image of Malcom showing the way "opening us" as in unlocking our spirits - setting us free - showing the way.
Thank you for introducing us to another forgotten artist. Your commentary illuminates her words.

Anonymous said...

Daddy, you forgot to mention that she was a great teacher. She taught Nikki Giovonnie and Madhubuti, who called himself Don L. Lee in the sixties.

MacDaddy said...

anon1: That image of "opening us" struck me the same way. Priceless.
anon2: Yes, Giovonni and Don L. Lee are just two of many. I think some of the older black poets like Margaret Walker and Mari Evans learned a lot from her too. Thanks.

blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com said...

Hey MacDaddy!

I do love Gwendolyn Brooks! Thank you for honoring her this way! I heard her recite poetry when I was a very little kid.

bell hooks's book, WE REAL COOL, came from this Gwendolyn Brooks' poem!

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!
Lisa

MacDaddy said...

Lisa: You got to hear Gwendolyn read her poetry? You were blessed that day. I'm coming to see you at your blog real soon. Thanks for the work you do.

A.F. said...

Thanks for this post! Gwendolyn Brooks was a powerhouse, and her poetry always makes me feel her energy, her ability to make the truth soar. I'm in awe of her work.

MacDaddy said...

a.f.: Thanks a lot. I'll be visiting you over at Amorphous Funk. I got you linked.