Gwendolyn Brooks Quotes on Writing and Life

Gwendolyn Brooks younger

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917 – 2000), the multi-award-winning American poet created a significant body of poems reflecting African-American life. In addition to sonnets, ballads, and rhythmic free verse, she also had some wise words about writing and life in prose.

Brooks’  lifetime output encompassed more than twenty books, including children’s books. In 1968, Brooks was named Poet Laureate for the state of Illinois. From 1985 to 1986 she was Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress.

Though her work reflected urban African-American life, its underlying themes were universal to the human experience.  Here is a selection of Gwendolyn Brooks’ quotes on these subjects and more.


“I felt that I had to write. Even if I had never been published, I knew that I would go on writing, enjoying it and experiencing the challenge.”

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“I shall create! If not a note, a hole.
  If not an overture, a desecration.”

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“What, what am I to do with all of this life?” 

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Maud Martha by Gwendolyn Brooks

Poetic Quotes from Maud Martha by Gwendolyn Brooks

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“Writing is a delicious agony.”

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“We don’t ask a flower any special reason for its existence. We just look at it and are able to accept it as being something different from ourselves.” 

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“She was learning to love moments. To love moments for themselves. ”

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“Books are meat and medicine and flame and flight and flower steel, stitch, cloud and clout, and drumbeats on the air.”

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“Do not desire to fit in. Desire to oblige yourselves to lead.”

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Gwendolyn Brooks quote

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“Don’t let anyone call you a minority if you’re black or Hispanic or belong to some other ethnic group. You’re not less than anybody else.”

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”I don’t like the idea of the black race being diluted out of existence. I like the idea of all of us being here.’’

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“Even if you are not ready for day it cannot always be night.” (Speech To The Young: Speech To The Progress-Toward)

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“I am interested in telling my particular truth as I have seen it.”

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“I am a writer perhaps because I am not a talker.”

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“Poetry is life distilled.”

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“One reason that cats are happier than people is that they have no newspapers.” (In the Mecca, 1968)

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“A writer should get as much education as possible, but just going to school is not enough; if it were, all owners of doctorates would be inspired writers.”

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“Exhaust the little moment. Soon it dies.
 And be it gash or gold it will not come
 Again in this identical guise.”

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“Live not for Battles Won. Live not for The-End-of-the-Song. Live in the along.” (Report from Part One, 1972)

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“Reading is important — read between the lines. Don’t swallow everything.”

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Gwendolyn Brooks

5 Things to Love About Gwendolyn Brooks

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“Very early in life I became fascinated with the wonders language can achieve. And I began playing with words.”

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“Does man love Art? Man visits Art, but squirms. Art hurts. Art urges voyages — and it is easier to stay at home, the nice beer ready.” (The Chicago Picasso, 1967) 

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“Words can do wonderful things. They pound, purr. They can urge, they can wheedle, whip, whine. They can sing, sass, singe. They can churn, check, channelize. They can be a “Hup two three four.” They can forge a fiery army of a hundred languid men.” 

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“It is lonesome, yes. For we are the last of the loud. Nevertheless, live. Conduct your blooming in the noise and whip of the whirlwind.” 

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“I wrote about what I saw and heard on the street.” (Brooks on A Street in Bronzeville)

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“I believe we should all know each other, we human carriers of so many pleasurable differences. To not know is to doubt, to shrink from, sidestep or destroy.” 

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Gwendolyn Brooks

Gwendolyn Brooks: The Poet as Working Mother 

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“Truth-tellers are not always palatable. There is a preference for candy bars.” 

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“We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”

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“When you love a man, he becomes more than a body. His physical limbs expand, and his outline recedes, vanishes. He is rich and sweet and right. He is part of the world, the atmosphere, the blue sky and the blue water.”

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“My mother took me to the library when I was about four or five. I enjoyed reading poetry and I tried to write it when I was about seven, at the time that I first tried to put rhymes together.  And I have loved it ever since.”

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“I don’t want to say that these poems have to be simple, but I want to clarify my language. I want these poems to be free. I want them to be direct without sacrificing the kinds of music, the picture-making I’ve always been interested in.”

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“I think there are things for all of us to do as long as we’re here and we’re healthy.”

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Gwendolyn Brooks Selected Poems

Gwendolyn Brooks page on Amazon 

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Skyler Isabella Gomez is a 2019 SUNY New Paltz graduate with a major in Public Relations and a minor in Black Studies. Her passions include connecting more with her Latin roots by researching and writing about legendary Latina authors.

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