This book examines how Gwendolyn Brooks, a self-proclaimed nonreligious person, advocates adherence to Christian ideals through religious allusions in her poetry. The discussion integrates Brooks' words, biographical data, commentary by other scholars, scriptural references, and doctrinal tenets. It identifies biblical figures and events and highlights Brooks' effective use of the sermon genre, and her express parallels between Christianity and Democracy. The work opens with a biographical chapter and Brooks' comments on religion, followed by analyses of her long poems, and more than thirty of her short ones. An illuminating interview with Nora Brooks Blakely about Brooks' religious background and philosophy is included.
Margot Harper Banks —
Margot Harper Banks is a professor of English at Kean University, Union, New Jersey, former chair of its Writer's Series, where she met Gwendolyn Brooks in 2000, and former coordinator of the freshman College Composition Program for 24 years.
Banks, Margot Harper. Religious allusion in the poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks. McFarland, 2012. 203p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780786449392 pbk; ISBN 9780786490752 e-book, contact publisher for price. Reviewed in 2013feb CHOICE. • New from McFarland •
Although Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) was the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize for poetry (1950), there are only a few full-length studies devoted to her work. These include D. H. Melhem's Gwendolyn Brooks: Poetry and the Heroic Voice (CH, Jun'87), George Kent's A Life of Gwendolyn Brooks (CH, Jun'90, 27-5625), and B. J. Bolden's Urban Rage in Bronzeville: Social Commentary in the Poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks, 1945-1960 (1999). Banks (Kean Univ.) adds to this small company with this readable, sharply focused work. She includes a concise biographical chapter and an interview with Brooks's daughter, Nora Brooks Blakely. Although Brooks did not consider herself a practicing Christian, Banks makes a compelling case for a recurring religious presence in Brooks's poetry, reflecting the spiritual presence instilled in her since childhood. Banks provides close, insightful readings of the longer poems--"The Anniad," (from Annie Allen, 1949), "In the Mecca," "In Emanuel's Nightmare," the three titled "Sermon on the Warpland," and "In Montgomery"--and good readings of shorter poems, including "The Sundays of Satin-Legs Smith," "Boys. Black: A Preachment," and "The Chicago Defender Sends a Man to Little Rock." This book (grammatical errors and typos notwithstanding) adds to knowledge of an important but understudied poet.
Summing Up: Recommended. Large collections, all levels. -- L. J. Parascandola, Long Island University