Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Gwendolyn Brooks's hair

Following up on what Adrienne had to say way back in June about H.D.'s follicles and the 'roots' of imagism, Gwendolyn Brooks's hair is literally the bearer of the history of mid-century Black poetics.

Compare Annie Allen (1949), the poem "beauty shoppe"...

"Guilty/ with invisible Beauty" and

(the smoking iron)

Lay it on lightly, lay it on with heed.
Because it took that stuff so long to grow."

...with Primer for Blacks (1980), the poem "To Those of My Sisters Who Kept Their Naturals"

"You have not wanted to be white.
Nor have you testified to adoration of that state
with the advertisement of imitation
(never successful because the hot comb is
laughing too.)"

Anyway, I love Brooks's poetry more than I can express right now. Probably my favorite thing I've read on my major list during the whole of generals. I'll have more to say about Maud Martha once I'm done reading Wright's Native Son, and tomorrow once i've finished looking at the Brooks-Wright indirect correspondence that is in special collections ("indirect" because they are writing to/about each other through their editor at Harper Bros.). I started looking today (can I legally post quotations on here from this material? I'll find out tomorrow) and found some wonderful details about the early draft history of Maud Martha, when it had the working title of American Family Brown and brought the whole family to a crowded center stage, before she decided to focus on Maud (originally named "Helen Martha").