I Hold My Honey And I Store My Bread

Brooks
Gwendolyn Brooks (1917 – 2000)

Art hurts. Art urges voyages – and it is easier to stay at home.

Gwendolyn Brooks

Hydrangeas

by Gwendolyn Brooks

Great-Mama took such care tending
the teal hydrangeas – their massive heads,
full of petals like impulse thoughts,
could fly apart in any spring breeze
and they would be left scattered, half
of themselves, and still appear full-headed.
Great-Mama nursed them with formulas,
whispered names and lullabies
under her breath, patted and cooed
the soil at the roots until her palms
were caked black. Oh, how they blossomed
and sprouted, framing the front yard
as if to say, she is ours, ours, to touch her
you must cross from flesh to flower.


Brooks combined a mastery of language and movement in her poetry with a distinct voice for the African American community.  She won the Pulitzer Prize in  1946 for her volume  of poetry titled, Annie Allen, becoming the first African American to win the award.  She built on that recognition to eventually promote smaller Black owned presses and to tirelessly advocate for education and encouragement of students and young writers.  In 1985, at the age of 68 she became the first Black woman serving as poetry consultant to the Library of Congress.  She used that position to sponsor and host literary awards and prizes.  She took her advocacy of literacy and literature to the people by visiting schools, colleges, universities, prisons, hospitals and drug rehabilitation centers. She took poetry out of the realm of elites and made it relevant in the everyday world.

A long time resident of Chicago, she used her status as poet laureate of Illinois to share her vision of human rights and promote the arts.  A woman of modest means throughout her lifetime, she worked tirelessly to use her art to inspire, amuse and educate, to create a kinder world, to create a greater understanding of our common experience as humans.


my dreams, my works, must wait till after hell

by Gwendolyn Brooks

I hold my honey and I store my bread
In little jars and cabinets of my will.
I label clearly, and each latch and lid
I bid, Be firm till I return from hell.
I am very hungry. I am incomplete.
And none can tell when I may dine again.
No man can give me any word but Wait,
The puny light. I keep eyes pointed in;
Hoping that, when the devil days of my hurt
Drag out to their last dregs and I resume
On such legs as are left me, in such heart
As I can manage, remember to go home,
My taste will not have turned insensitive
To honey and bread old purity could love.