Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Letter to the Editor about Gwendolyn Brooks

What follows is a "letter to the editor" at The New York Times that I sent a couple of days ago. They have a high volume of letters submitted each day, so I'm not surprised that I haven't heard back from them. Still, I thought I'd present it here. The paper has a 150 word-count limit for letters to the editor by the way.


In his October 11 review of The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton, Dwight Garner perhaps inadvertently misrepresented observations made by Gwendolyn Brooks, thus obscuring views of the complexity of African American poetry.

Instead of saying that there were “essentially two varieties of young black poets then extant,” as Garner notes, what Brooks actually pointed out was that some poets who began their careers writing overtly militant verse eventually sought “degrees of super-subtlety.” Thus, rather than identify only two types, Brooks was acknowledging the transformations and diversity among individual black poets.

In addition, while Brooks does in fact note that the poems in question were “products of stormy resentments,” she concludes in that same sentence that the works of poets were fueled by “voracious reading.” An acknowledgement that at least some presumable “angry” black poets were also studious readers could enhance our view of their resentments.

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