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We Real Cool: The Poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks

A portrait of Gwendolyn Brooks, an African-American poet whose imagination, conscience and passion for words made her the first black poet to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1950.

Gwendolyn Brooks was an African American poet whose imagination, conscience and passion for words made her the first black poet to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1950. Narrated by her daughter Nora Brooks Blakely, this is a portrait of her life through the voices of friends and fellow poets - including Sonia Sanchez, Haki Madhubuti and Sharon Olds.

Gwendolyn Brooks published her first poem at 13 years old and by the time she was 16, she was publishing in local newspapers serving Chicago's black population. Her poems are portraits of the ordinary people she observed from day to day. She moulded them into memorable characters like Annie Allen, Rudolph Reed and Satin Legs Smith. Her deepest compassion though was for young people, particularly struggling youth. Her most famous poem, We Real Cool, is about children skipping school. It is still spoken aloud today by school children who learn it by heart.

Brooks believed she had a social and political role as a poet and became one of the most visible articulators of the 'black aesthetic' as the Black Arts Movement took off in the late 1960s. She always claimed her greatest achievement was teaching people that poetry is not a formal activity but an art form within the reach of everybody.

(Photo: Gwendolyn Brooks celebrating her 50th birthday at home, 1967. Credit: Getty Images)

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27 minutes

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Mon 5 Oct 2015 06:32GMT

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