Conversations Magazine, March/April 2024

Conversations Magazine, March/April 2024

Monday, April 9, 2012

Tony Lindsay Presents "Gwendolyn Brooks: 'A Street In Bronzeville'"

In her first published collection of poetry, 'A Street in Bronzeville', Ms. Brooks transports the reader to the south side of Chicago during the nineteen forties to an area in the city referred to as the "Black Belt." This Black Belt area would give rise to Chicago's culturally rich south side, and later become known as Bronzeville which was where Gwendolyn Brooks lived and wrote.

When "A Street in Bronzeville' was published Ms. Brooks lived at Six Twenty-three East Sixty-Third Street in Bronzeville. From her autobiography, 'Report from Part One,' she writes "If you wanted a poem, you had only to look out of a window."

This farming of poetic material from her Bronzeville community is apparent throughout the collection. She was a poet inspired by her community. A writer is often advised to "write what one knows," Ms. Brooks was the epitome of that advice. She took the everyday people of Bronzeville and the occurrences of their lives and gave them literary merit by representing them in formally structured poetry.
In the heart wrenching poem 'the mother' the reader is forced into the internal sufferings of a mother who has aborted her children.

'the mother'
Abortions will not let you forget.
You remember the children you got that you did not get,
The damp small pulps with little or with no hair,
The singers and workers that never handled the air,
You will never neglect or beat
Them, or silence or buy with a sweet.
You will never wind up the sucking-thumb
Or scuttle off ghosts that come.
You will never leave them, controlling your luscious sigh,
Return for a snack of them, with gobbling mother-eye.

I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed children.
I have contracted. I have eased
My dim dears at the breast they could never suck.
I have said, Sweets, if I sinned, if I seized
Your luck
And your lives from your unfinished reach,
If I stole your births and your names,
Your straight baby tears and your games,
Your stilted or lovely loves, your tumults, you mar-
riages, aches, and your deaths,
If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths,
Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate.
Though why should I whine,
Whine that the crime was other than mine?-
Since anyhow you are dead.
Or rather, or instead,
You were never made.
But that too, I am afraid,
Is faulty: oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said?
You were born, you had body, you died.
It is just that you never giggled or planned or cried.

Believe me, I loved you all.
Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I
Loved you

In the ballad 'of De Witt Williams on his way to Lincoln Cemetery Miller' Ms. Brooks exemplifies the death of "a plain black boy."

'of De Witt Williams on his way to Lincoln Cemetery Miller'
He was born in Alabama
He was bred in Illinois
He was nothing but a
Plain black boy.

Swing low swing low sweet sweet chariot.
Nothing but a plain black boy.

Drive him past the Pool Hall.
Drive him past the Show.
Blind within his casket.
But maybe he will know.

Down through Forty-seventh Street:
Underneath the L,
And-Northwest Corner, Prairie,
That he loved so well.

Don't forget the Dance Halls-
Warick and Savoy,
Where he picked his women, where
He drank his liquid joy.

Born in Alabama.
Bred in Illinois.
He was nothing but a
Plain black boy.
Swing low swing low sweet sweet chariot.
Nothing but a plain black boy.
Gwendolyn Brooks was a poet who loved her community, so much so that she made it the center of most of work. Her first published work, 'A Street in Bronzeville' is a must read.

Tony Lindsay is an award-winning author and adjunct professor at Chicago State University. His new book ONE DEAD DOCTOR is available now on He can be reached at or on Facebook at

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