Today (June 7) marks 100 years since poet Gwendolyn Brooks was born in Topeka, Kansas. Her works earned her many honors and fans throughout her 83-year life, most notably the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for “Annie Allen.” She was the first African-American poet to win the award. The Poetry Foundation honors her legacy with an animated adaption of her recitation of 1959’s “We Real Cool.”
Brooks spent most of her life in Chicago, and the Windy City-based foundation commissioned several local artists of color to adapt her poem about young men playing in a pool hall. Production company Manual Cinema joined with poets and Crescendo Literary founders Eve Ewing and Nate Marshall, mixing audio from Brooks’ 1983 recitation with two-dimensional animation and Jamila and Ayanna Woods’ jazzy score. The end result depicts Brooks detailing the poem’s moment of inspiration to a group of children.
The above short is the first publicly released work from ”No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks,” Ewing and Marshall’s theatrical production that will honor Brooks this November.
For those who wish to continue the celebration of Brooks’ canon after watching the video, The University of Illinois’ Rare Book and Manuscript Library features much of her work on its new interactive website.