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Our Miss Brooks

Renowned poet Gwendolyn Brooks visits St. Louis



When the poet Michael S. Harper appeared on National Public Radio's Fresh Air recently to discuss the CD anthology of African-American poetry Our Souls Have Grown Deep Like the Rivers, he commented on Gwendolyn Brooks and how her poem "We Real Cool" needs to be included in any list of great American poems of the last century. For those who haven't picked up an American-poetry anthology -- in which "We Real Cool" is often included -- lately, it goes like this:

The Pool Players.
Seven at the Golden Shovel.
We real cool. We
Left school. We
Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We
Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We
Jazz June. We
Die soon.

The wallop that poetry packs comes from the power of compression, presenting large truths through rhythm, rhyme, an economy of language, images that glisten and fade like tragedy itself in a microcosm. Brooks' work contains such power, and that power has grown since she first set foot in a poetry workshop at the South Side Community Art Center in Chicago in 1941. She's been awarded Guggenheim Fellowships and a Pulitzer Prize, and she was named poet laureate of the state of Illinois in 1969, a title she still holds at the age of 82. She appears at the Mildred E. Bastian Center for the Performing Arts, on the campus of St. Louis Community College-Forest Park, at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 30. She's one of the greats.

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