Gwendolyn Brooks was not a published poet until her later years. Yet her second book, Annie Allen, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Gwendolyn Brooks was sixty-eight years old, and the first African American to take this award.

Exquisite tells her story, from a childhood during the Great Depression where her family’s meals were largely beans to her working life, where she took whatever job she could, after graduation. Yet the family’s ‘treasured bookshelves’ of poetry were read and read aloud, shared and memorised. What’s more, they ignited a need to write in a seven-year old Gwendolyn, that could not be dimmed.

Through school and high school, college and marriage and motherhood, Gwendolyn wrote. She entered her poems into competitions and sent them to publishing houses. Despite constant rejection, she persevered.

Alongside an inspiring story, told in semi-verse form, Cozbi A. Cabrera’s pictures are rich with meaning, longing, dreaming and hope.

Exquisite won the Coreetta Scott King Honor Award, and was a Robert Sibert Honor book.

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The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks

Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera

(Abrams)- hardback

Although Gwendolyn Brooks’ family had little money to spare, they ‘owned great treasure- a bookcase filled with precious poems’. What’s more her ‘father read fine poetry aloud, passionate and proud‘. Gwendolyn memorised the poetry. Thereafter, she began to write her own poetry from the age of seven. Her parents were convinced of Gwendolyn’s ability and encouraged her writing.  Furthermore, Gwendolyn would sit ‘on the back porch‘, looking ‘out at the western sky’, dreaming of an Exquisite ‘future’. 
However, Gwendolyn Brooks’ ‘future‘ took her through the Depression and then constant rejection from publishers. Despite these knock backs, she continued to write. It seems that  writing was ‘like eating and breathing to Gwendolyn- something she had to do’. Thereafter, her works were sent to newspapers and magazines, through college, where she read ‘thick books of poetry’ . Furthermore she wrote after graduation, where she ‘found work where she could‘. Through marriage and motherhood, to a move to the Bronzeville on the South Side Chicago, Gwendolyn Brooks continued to write. However,  it took years for her poetry to be published. Yet at sixty- eight years old, the publication of Annie Allen resulted in Gwendolyn Brooks winning the The Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
Exquisite is an inspirational biography of a brave life of which we need to know. While it reminds me of On Wings of Words  this poet’s motivation was a different from Emily Dickinson’s.
 Coretta Scott King Honor Award and Robert Sibbert Honor Book.  


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