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The Bean Eaters (Gwendolyn Brooks)

March 18, 2010

This collection is definitely haunting. At first, I was kind of enjoying the content, since each of the poems is quite narrative (always a plus for me, since I struggle with poetry, especially of the lyric variety)…but then I reached “A Bronzeville Mother Loiters in Mississippi, Meanwhile, a Mississippi Mother Burns Bacom” and realized that it was about Emmett Till. From that point out, the poems veered toward the serious and solemn, and the violent and dark. Not a good collection for me to read at night…in the dark…because I’m a total wuss.

Anyway, Emmett Till and the ensuing events continued to haunt the collection every few poems as Brooks touches on the legal aspects of the trial and the verdict, the impact of his death on his mother as well as on the family of the man who murdered him, etc. Given the book’s publication date (1960) and the date of Emmett Till’s murder and the trial’s conclusion (1955), it seems reasonable to assume that the dark undercurrents woven throughout the entire collection were strongly influenced by the young boy’s murder. The subject matter of the poems is oddly highlighted by the almost sing-song rhythm and rhymes of Brooks’ poems. This rhythm doesn’t mock or undermine the content, but instead adds to the melancholy mood.

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