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Selected Poems

4.18  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,279 Ratings  ·  59 Reviews
The classic volume by the distinguished modern poet, winner of the 1950 Pulitzer Prize, and recipient of the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, showcases an esteemed artist's technical mastery, her warm humanity, and her compassionate and illuminating response to a complex world.
Paperback, 161 pages
Published July 3rd 2006 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published September 1963)
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The Collected Poems by Langston HughesThe Poetry of Pablo Neruda by Pablo NerudaPoems by Maya AngelouSelected Poems by Gwendolyn BrooksBlessing the Boats by Lucille Clifton
Favorite Poets of Color
4th out of 392 books — 120 voters
Pride and Prejudice by Jane AustenTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeJane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëWuthering Heights by Emily BrontëMrs.Dalloway Stock #875841q by Virginia Woolf
Great Women Authors
340th out of 787 books — 209 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,983)
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These poems focus on the lives of black people, poor people, elderly people, disabled people, soldiers. They do not shy away from difficult topics but do not sensationalize them, either: one piece, titled "the mother," begins starkly, "Abortions do not let you forget."

Brooks inhabits the characters she writes about with a stirringly absolute empathy. By shining on them the quiet light of her unostentatiously perfect prosody, she shows us that even society's most overlooked and alienated individu
Jul 01, 2012 Rowena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book of poetry I've read in years! I really enjoyed it. One of my favourite poems in it was this one :

To be in love
Is to touch with a lighter hand.
In yourself you stretch, you are well.
You look at things
Through his eyes.
A cardinal is red.
A sky is blue.
Suddenly you know he knows too.
He is not there but
You know you are tasting together
The winter, or a light spring weather.
His hand to take your hand is overmuch.
Too much to bear.
You cannot look in his eyes
Because your pulse must n
Oct 24, 2007 J.P. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: poetry fans
I had the honor and privilege of meeting Ms. Brooks at a reading she gave at a local college in 1992. She was the first honest-to-God poet I ever met. She was personable and down-to-Earth and, in her mid-to-late 70's at the time, as sharp as the proverbial knife. And she proceeded to give an hour+ reading which left everybody in that room a true-blue fan of hers.

Brooks' poetry has a delightfully strange quality about it: at once gentle and powerful, simultaneously spare and voluminous. She says
4.5 stars! I mean, it's Gwendolyn Motherfucking Brooks.
Jan 29, 2011 Karen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry-books
I don't know how old I was when I first read a poem by Gwendolyn Brooks -- 12, maybe 13. I don't know where I even found the poem. But I do remember the specific poem, "a song in the front yard," and I do remember reciting my favorite stanza: "I stayed in the front yard all my life./I want a peek at the back/Where it's rough and unattended and hungry weed grows/A girl gets sick of a rose."

Of course, I didn't know about symbolism or other poetic devices at the time. I just liked the music in her
Feb 01, 2013 Alan rated it it was amazing
Gwendolyn Brooks should have been our Inaugural poet, if Clinton valued literature more, politics less. There's little comparison between her poetry and her sophomoric colleagues'. "We real cool. We" alone stands as a prosodic and vocal breakthrough in American letters, the voice of the street in spondees, with the line-end punctuating the street pause. Wonderful, and enlightening. Nobody knew you could capture the
street in a brief lyric until she did. Rappers would do well to master Brooks' s
Peter Landau
Jun 16, 2014 Peter Landau rated it it was amazing
I’m still working through all the poets name-checked in Christian Wiman’s MY BRIGHT ABYSS, one of the best books on faith I’ve ever read. Wiman, being a poet with a rare cancer that tests his faith, finds solace and guidance in the works of those poets who tap the spiritual in their material. One of the poets I’d never read, though I was familiar with her famous “We Real Cool” poem (collected here), was Gwendolyn Brooks. Unlike some of the other poets cited in Wiman’s book, Brooks isn’t primaril ...more
Dec 09, 2015 Mimi rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, poetry, 2013
This is the most well-known set of Gwendolyn Brooks' poetry. Many of these poems were published in various magazines and literary journals, and now they're finally brought together in one collection.

— — — — —

I'd like to thank Ryan from HarperCollins for sending me the anniversary edition to enjoy.
Feb 24, 2013 Douglas rated it really liked it
Some of my favorites were, "The Preacher: Ruminates Behind the Sermon", "The Vacant Lot", "The Ballad of Rudolph Reed", and "To Be in Love". From The Aeneid to Civil Rights, her poetic voice was as unique and varied as her themes.
Oct 17, 2008 Qiana rated it it was amazing
We wonder! But not well! Not for a minute! Since Number Five is out of the bathroom now, We think of lukewarm water, hope to get in it.

Gwendolyn Brooks is AWESOME.
Jun 30, 2013 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This selection contains a smattering of poems from Brooks' most famous early works. One thing that immediately stands out in Brooks' writing is how she utilizes extremely elevated language to deal with working class, especially black working class, situations. This juxtaposition gives the poems a unique essence and place some distance between the narrator and the situations being discussed. There is no surprise in this seeming contradiction. One of the core themes stretching through Brooks' work ...more
May 29, 2012 Rob rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, read-2012, owned
Brooks is masterful, in case you were unaware. She has a wonderful way of seeing the world. Here's a sample of her honest, contemplative verse (probably my favorite poem in the book):


And if sun comes
How shall we greet him?
Shall we not dread him,
Shall we not fear him
After so lengthy a
Session with shade?

Though we have wept for him,
Though we have prayed
All through the night-years—
What if we wake one shimmering morning to
Hear the fierce hammering
Of his firm knuckles
Hard on the door?

Shall we no
Anna Keating
Jan 09, 2009 Anna Keating rated it it was amazing
Life for my child is simple, and is good.
He knows his wish. Yes, but that is not all.
Because I know mine too.
And we both want joy of undeep and unabiding things, like kicking over a chair or throwing blocks out a window/
Or tippping over an icebox pan
Or snatching down curtains or fingering an electric outlet/
Or a journey or a friend or an illegal kiss.
No. There is more to it than that.
It is that he is never afraid.
Rather, he reaches out and lo the chair falls with a beautiful
And the blocks
May 08, 2014 Ruth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
After seeing one of her poems featured in the "Mecca Flat Blues" exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center last week, I decided to come home and read through more of her work. (Not that I've never read Gwendolyn Brooks before, but it's been years.)

The following poems took a lot of my attention. I can't say that I liked them all, precisely (due to how sad some of the content made me) but they're provoking:
"The Bean Eaters"
"The Preacher Ruminates Behind the Sermon"
"The Crazy Woman"
"The Empty Woman"
May 01, 2013 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This collection was a very interesting read. Her command of the language is wide ranging. Her use of literary/poetic devices jumps out at me. Her experiences are unique - not from the perspective of most major poets. Instead her home is among those who are looked down upon. She uses devices that the elite use to tell the tales of royalty - and she sings the songs, the tales, of those who are considered “ordinary” and through her eyes, she captures the tragedy and beauty and pathos - that is not ...more
Nicole Gervasio
Aug 11, 2012 Nicole Gervasio rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brooks' voice is familiar, like one I grew up with in Trenton. And I've had this volume for a long time, evidently (given the now-defunct Borders coupon I've just found bookmarking one page). She swerves effortlessly between vernacular and intellectual voices as a poet of multifarious skill. Sometimes I have trouble getting through the longer poems, because I enjoy reading poetry out loud, but I still gravitate back to Brooks whenever I want to hear something like home (and the rage that comes w ...more
Oct 01, 2011 Therese rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I struggle with poetry. But Holy crap I found a poet. One that makes sense, one that distills life and makes it clearer. Makes it MORE. All in bleak, sweet, fairy-tale rhythm. Brooks wrote about racism and abortion in the 40's, before it was cool to spill your private blood all over the page.

"Abortions will not let you forget.
You remember the children you got that you did not get.
The small damp pulps with little or with no hair,
The singers and workers that never handled the air."
Jul 20, 2016 Hillary rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Lovely, lovely poetry.
Sambath Meas
Jan 15, 2015 Sambath Meas rated it really liked it
In an interview article of "Contemporary Literature," Gwendolyn Brooks, in response to a question about one of her stanzas, says, "I could have said what I wanted to say in two lines," which reminds me of the first two sentences of "of De Witt Williams on his way to Lincoln Cemetery."

"He was born in Alabama/He was bred in Illinois" sum up the periods of the Jim Crow south and the Great Migration without the play-by-play history lesson. Readers already know the significance of these two periods.
Bernard Norcott-mahany
Feb 25, 2011 Bernard Norcott-mahany rated it it was amazing
I found Ms. Brooks' poetry to be a lot more challenging than I had anticipated. I also think that there needs to be a great reader reading this poems to really bring them to life. Even with all the difficulty, you really get a sense of the great power of Ms. Brooks' language. It felt, in many cases, that she really wrestled with what she wanted to say, and that wrestling with language and form produced a very sinewy style.
Jul 16, 2016 Emmkay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, race, 2016-reads
Fantastic. I think the only poem by Gwendolyn Brooks that I knew before was "We Real Cool," which is in this collection and is striking. But wow, she is good across the board. The structure, the imagery, the storytelling - I was pulling this out of my bag eagerly on the subway to keep reading. Among my favourites:
- "the mother," which begins
"Abortions will not let you forget.
You remember the children you got that you did not get."
- "hunchback girl: she thinks of heaven," in which the girl imagi
Dec 14, 2008 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What we can learn from Gwendolyn Brookes is not really measurable. She truly captures the history of a people, the tragedy of social inequality, the curiousity of being human, the flukes, the flaws, the discoveries that society as a whole makes. Brookes shows her readers a time of growth during depression, a time of hope in unknowingness. She is the most truthful poet I've ever read.
Feb 02, 2008 Amy marked it as to-read
I didn't realize that Gwendolyn Brooks died in 2000. She spoke at an event for a non-profit arts organization in Chicago that I worked for when I was first out of college. I'm glad I got to hear her in person.

Found this quick clip today of her reading one of her most famous poems, We Real Cool: a great website!
Sep 17, 2013 Craig rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pre-2011
I hate poetry, so stop reading now if that affects your assessment of my review. Brooks is one of the handful of poets I can return to, over and over again, and find something new every time. She is amazingly talented, and perfectly captures the emotion and liveliness of the times she is writing about.
Kate Thompson
Aug 01, 2007 Kate Thompson rated it really liked it
Shelves: authors-ive-seen
Illinois Wesleyan graduation, 1998. I was a caterer, but allowed to see most of the speech. Wonderful writer, wonderful sense of humor. Said she wrote short poems because she had to wait all day to get the kids to bed before getting them down on paper, and that's all the length she could keep memorized.
Nov 16, 2007 Nicole rated it it was ok
I'm not a huge poetry person, which is the main reason this doesn't get a very high rating. As far as poetry goes, this is decent, especially the earlier stuff. Pretty original, interesting topics... it'd be pretty great, actually, if not for the face that it's poetry.
Aug 08, 2011 Michael rated it it was amazing
Gwendolyn Brooks is the best English-language poet of the twentieth century, and it is a crying shame that her complete works are not in print. Read this selected if you must, but track down used copies of her entire oeuvre if you have any self-respect.
Jan 02, 2011 Britt rated it really liked it
I wrote a paper about Gwendolyn Brooks for AP Literature and focused on these 5 poems:
the mother
the preacher: ruminates behind the sermon
People who have no children can be hard
We Real Cool
A Sunset of the City
Jan 15, 2013 Lauren rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Love me some Gwendolyn. When I read "We Real Cool" for the first time, I didn't like the way it was written. Then, my professor had us listen to her read it, and the style of her cadence took my breath away
Jun 14, 2013 Carole rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful book! In 1980, Ms. Brooks gave a poetry reading at my college, and I was fortunate enough to meet her. Such a talented, warm person...and she signed this book for me.
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  • Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems, 1988-2000
  • Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems
  • Selected Poems
  • Transbluesency: Selected Poems, 1961-1995
  • Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems
  • Edgar Allan Poe & The Juke-Box: Uncollected Poems, Drafts, and Fragments
  • Domestic Work: Poems
  • Poems of Phillis Wheatley
  • My House
  • Blood Dazzler
  • Breaking Poems
  • Undersong: Chosen Poems Old and New
  • Vice: New and Selected Poems
  • Dark Fields of the Republic
  • Fuel
  • The Selected Poems
  • The Blue Estuaries
  • Final Harvest: Emily Dickinson's Poems
Although she was born on 7 June 1917 in Topeka, Kansas--the first child of David and Keziah Brooks--Gwendolyn Brooks is "a Chicagoan." The family moved to Chicago shortly after her birth, and despite her extensive travels and periods in some of the major universities of the country, she has remained associated with the city's South Side. What her strong family unit lacked in material wealth was ma ...more
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“We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.”
“ To be in love
Is to touch things with a lighter hand.

In yourself you stretch, you are well.”
More quotes…