When We Dead Awaken

When We Dead Awaken

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Tradition becomes a problem when it stops the effectiveness or growth of something or someone. Although there are many traditions that are good, we should not be held hostage to them nor ostracized because we break them. The writers of these essays continue to expand boundaries and challenge audiences by breaking the hold of traditional writing styles.

I am impressed, amazed and challenged by the writing styles of these authors. These essays have allowed me to think outside the box and go against the grain. Some people may view Adrienne Rich as radical or out of control. I have to disagree and consider her as a writer with controlled thoughts who refuses to be defined by what society says is politically correct. This is shown in part of her statement when she accepts the national book award. “We together accept this award in the name of all women whose voices have gone and still go unheard in a patriarchal world, and in the name of those who, like us, have been tolerated as token women in this culture, often at great cost and in great pain. We dedicate this occasion ot the struggle for self-determination of all women, of every color, identification, or deprived class, the women who will understand what we are doing here and those who will not understand yet the silent women who have given us the strength to do our work” (Bartholomae & Petrosky 518).

In the essay “When We Dead Awaken” Rich makes an interesting point when she says “It’s exhilarating to be alive in a time of awakening consciousness; it can also be confusing, disorienting and painful” (Bartholomae & Petrosky 522). Rich shows us the triumph of our consciousness being exposed to a new revelation and at the same time gives us a reality of the turmoil this awakening might bring.

I define the word turmoil in this case as disorienting, confusing and painful. This does not mean the awakening will never be exhilarating, but there will be a process to getting there. Rich’s poems show a process of writing styles during different phases of her life. She talked about how she needed to find, “anger that is creative, until I can tap into the very rich ocean I think my work was constrained in certain ways” (Bartholomae & Petrosky 517).

The dynamic between a political vision

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and the demand of a fresh vision is clear; without a growing feminist movement, the first inroads of feminist scholarship could not have been made; without the sharperning of a black feminist consciousness, black women’s writing would have been left in limbo between misogynist black male critics and white feminist still struggling to unearth a white women’s tradition” (Bartholomae & Petrosky 521).

I believe Gwendolyn Brooks defies all literary barriers and limitation. She was an amazing woman and a true talent. She gave women and minorities the opportunity to not only dream, but to dream big. Gwendolyn Brooks was born on June 7, 1917. Her mother was a school teacher and her father was a janitor. Shortly after Gwendolyn Brooks was born her family moved to Chicago from Kansas. Brooks experienced racial prejudice, which was common during the time, especially in high school. The racism and intolerance she experienced helped and became the driving force in a great deal of her poetry. She was passionate about poetry and literature at a very young age and her parents encouraged and supported this thirst for knowledge. At the age of thirteen Gwendolyn Brooks published her first poem in a children's magazine and at sixteen she had created a collection of around seventy-five published poems. At seventeen Gwendolyn Brooks began submitting her work to a poetry column in the African American newspaper the Chicago Defender.

In 1936, Brooks graduated from Wilson Junior College and in 1943 Brooks received an award for poetry from the Midwestern Writers' Conference and her first book of poetry, A Street in Bronzeville, published in 1945. To her credit she received her first Mademoiselle magazine. In 1950, she published her second book of poetry, Annie Allen, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, the first given to an African-American.

She was invited by John F. Kennedy to read at a Library of Congress poetry festival in 1962. In addition to her many awards, Brooks has received the National Book Award, Pulitzer Prize and was made Poet Laureate of Illinois in 1968, and in 1985, Brooks became the Library of Congress's Consultant in Poetry (Poet Laureate). In 1988, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame and in 1994, she was chosen as the National Endowment for the Humanities' Jefferson Lecturer which is one of the highest honors for American literature and the highest award in the humanities given by the federal government. I am amazed and inspired by Gwendolyn Brook’s strength, intelligence, tenacity, and achievements. It is individuals like her that allow me to dream and dream big.

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