Monday, October 8, 2012

Poetry Monday: Gwendolyn Brooks

ModPo went quickly through Gertrude Stein and I was amazed at how powerful her work ended up being for me. I don't think I'd ever read her poetry on my own. My first readings left me with no impression whatsoever, but the closer I looked the more intense the impact of the work on me, and indeed on my own work. I found myself lingering over the rhythms, going back to the lines again and again in my mind. The most oddly evocative for me was the strange "IF I TOLD HIM A Completed Portrait of Picasso". This was almost completely meaningless for me to begin with, but I kept returning. Stein's own reading was hypnotic - her voice so pervasive, that I think I shall hear all poetry in that voice now. My own poetry has started to show slight hints of that repetition and wordplay - I even began a poem last week with a quote from her "Composition as Explanation".  I'm not quite ready to leave Stein behind, but this week ModPo has moved on to the anti-modernists of the 1930s, and the poets of the Harlem Renaissance.  We're not specifically doing any Langston Hughes, though I do love him and will come back to him here at some point (you can hold me to that), but so far my favourite poem this week is Gwendolyn Brooks' "truth". Here's just the first stanza. You can get the whole poem here.

And if sun comes
How shall we greet him?
Shall we not dread him,
Shall we not fear him
After so lengthy a
Session with shade?
Though the poem is as political and powerful as anything written by the angry "communist poets" whose work precedes it, what I like about "truth" (and other work by Brooks) is that the message never overwhelms the medium. The poem is never didactic. It never yells at the reader. It makes its point through the inherent power of its imagery, its personification, its metaphor, and the emotive power of its rhythms.  In some way, I can see the impact of Stein even here, in the most un-experimental of places.  I may have Steinitis. 

No comments:

Post a Comment