Delmarva Public Radio’s celebration of National Poetry Month continues this week with the second in our series of four lectures on significant poetic themes.
Our speaker is Adam Tavel, professor of English at War-Wic Community College in Salisbury, Maryland. Adam explores the life and poetry of the great African American poet, Gwendolyn Brooks. Brooks was born in 1917 and even though she lived mostly in Chicago she was still a child of the segregated era and poverty was her namesake. At the same time, she was brilliant.
As you will hear from Adam’s talk, she published her first poem at the age of 13 and went on to publish more than 70 poems by the time she was 16. At 32 in 1950 she won the Pulitzer Prize. Gwendolyn Brooks was a poet of the unique struggles of African American women and in that work sought to define her own black identity and the dignity she found in that experience. In Les Miserable, Victor Hugo said that “there are no bad plants nor are there bad people. There are only bad cultivators.” Adam Tavel reminds us that in one of her poems, Gwendolyn Brooks says that we are each other’s harvest. Through her poetry, she was a great cultivator of the human spirit. Is it any wonder that she served as Poet Laureate of Illinois for 32 years.