Blog Post #3: Gwendolyn Brooks

The Poem, “of De Witt Williams on his way to Lincoln Cemetery,” was an observation and a kind of contemplation of who this boy was. Who he was, as the speaker reflects on seeing him in his comings and goings; seemingly no different from other “black boys.” He was just like any other, but why him, seems to be the implication. The second poem, “The Boy Died in My Alley,” seemed to be the speaker, presumably Miss Brooks, recounting the time prior to the funeral. She is going over the happenings of “the boy” being discovered. This second poem does one noticeable thing quite differently from the first, however. It turns her from merely another onlooker, as she appears to be in the first poem, into an active participant. The boy is found in her alley which involves her. The police come to her door, which further involves her. There is an implication that she personally has a {stake in the outcome} of this young man. The poem infers her implicit guilt, as she heard and did nothing.

“The Shot that killed him yes I heard as I heard the Thousand shots before; careening tinnily down the nights across my years and arteries.”

The speaker notes that she had heard shots prior to that moment and yet, had never “seen the dead,” so she likely thought little about those particular shots. The poem paints her as almost being responsible for it because she has seen the places he was going and the things he was getting into and she did nothing to stop him. The poem wrestles with an intensely powerful critique on the human condition because most individuals would have done the same and would have, in some way albeit small, been just as culpable for what had happened.

Both poems strike a political cord, however, the first seems to be more political. This may be a result of looking upon it from a more modernized view of political “action” writing, however, it strikes as more of a public response to a young black male dying. It shows few factual references to the situation, it is somewhat vague on what actually led to this death, and it is not personal. The second poem, however, is personal. It is the speaker actually saying, “this happened in my alley,” “I could have done something to prevent this.” The second poem mentions the police, but only in an effort to show the weight of the speaker’s lack of action. The second poem, for those reasons, was less overtly political, yet more impactful in this writer’s view. It seems as though Brooks having attended that conference, must have put her view into perspective. I am sure she realized that change within a community would never come if all of its citizens were merely onlookers and never one’s reason for changing their destructive life’s course.

 

One thought on “Blog Post #3: Gwendolyn Brooks

  1. I also believe that the poem “A Boy Died in my Alley” is like a prelude to her other poem “of De Witt Williams on his way to Lincoln Cemetery.” However I thought that “A Boy Died in my Alley” was more political because of the police. I thought that she mentioned the police because she’s implying that the police shot the boy and she’s making astatement on police bruitality. She feels guilty for not doing anythig about it and she’s trying to get people to rise up and not stay quiet. If one stays quiet then they are not helping solve the problem, so frankly they are onl making the problem worse.

Feel free to let me know what you think! :)

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