2022-2023 Core Book: Selected Poems

Art Urges Voyages 

We invite you to read with our students, staff, and faculty Gwendolyn Brooks' book Selected Poems  as a part of Wheaton College’s Core Book program.

The Core Book program fosters a shared experience across the campus community as we read, reflect upon, and discuss together a significant work that highlights themes of Wheaton’s Christ at the Core general education curriculum.

Join us in reading Gwendolyn Brooks’ Selected Poems. As a lifelong resident of the Bronzeville neighborhood in south Chicago, Brooks bore witness to the joys and sorrows of ordinary lives with a poet’s eye and a prophet’s vision. Brooks’ poetry is accessible, even to the novice poetry reader, and she writes with an incisive clarity that opens the reader’s eyes to see the world as it is and as it could be. She once described the experiences we have day-to-day as “poetry in the rough.” As we read Brooks’ poetry together, we will encounter quotidian scenes of mid-twentieth century southside Chicago - from the public spaces of front yards, pool halls, beauty shops, bars, and vacant lots to the private spaces of back yards, tiny kitchenette apartments, and the interior life and thoughts of city residents. 

Selected Poems

by Gwendolyn Brooks

Harper Perennial Modern Classics, July 3, 2006
Buy from the Wheaton College Bookstore
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Why Selected Poems?

Brooks’ poetry captures the daily realities of Black Americans during the difficult Civil Rights era with realism and hope. Her poetry returns time and again to the enduring themes of family, identity, living in community, poverty, and the human experience. Brooks demonstrated a mastery of classical and modern forms of poetry, weaving allusions to classic books and scripture throughout her work. We invite you to read with us as we ask how reading and entering into the worlds that Brooks captured might help us expand our understanding of the human experience and speak into our interaction with our communities and the world around us.

Selected Poems Resources

Joel Erickson, Core Studies

Research Fellow, Class of 2020

Tiffany Eberle Kriner, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of English

Sarah Miglio, Ph.D.

Assistant Provost and Assistant Professor of Core Studies and History

Go Deeper

“But I feel now that it was better for me to have grown up in Chicago because in my writing I am proud to feature people and their concerns—their troubles as well as their joys.” 

(“Paul Angle and Gwendolyn Brooks Interview” in We Asked Gwendolyn Brooks about the Creative Environment in Illinois, 1966)


Celebrating Gwendolyn Brooks@100 Interactive Online Exhibit, The University of Illinois Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Gwendolyn Brooks: A Poet’s Work in the Community Online Exhibition. The Morgan Library & Museum

Promised Land? The Black Chicago Renaissance and After by James Hurt

Photographs of Chicago: 1918-1950 from the Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Learning Lab

“A Peek at Gwendolyn Brooks’ Chicago, Then and Now,”  by Adam Morgan in Chicago Magazine

Home Histories: The Gwendolyn Brooks House, by Abigail Bazin in Southside Weekly

Gwendolyn Brooks, Lift Every Voice: Why African American Poetry Matters

An Introduction to Gwendolyn Brooks,” by Elizabeth Alexander

“Frost? Williams? No, Gwendolyn Brooks,” From the Pulitzer Files

“Why Gwendolyn Brooks Will Live On Forever,” by Angela Jackson

“Gwendolyn Brooks, 83, Passionate Poet, Dies,” Literary Obituary from the New York Times

Biographies of Brooks

“I’ve written so many poems that I believe some of them will stay alive. People write me wonderful letters saying this poem or that poem has meant very much to them and in some cases has changed their direction. So I hope I’ll still be useful when I’m no longer here.”

(Interview with Gwendolyn Brooks, broadcast on “New Letters in the Air,” November, 1988)


“Gwendolyn Brooks: The Early Work and the Problem of ‘Reaching Everyone in the World,’” by Leslie Monsour in Literary Matters

“Happy birthday, dear Gwendolyn: Her poetic-prophetic vision is worth celebrating,” by Elizabeth Palmer in The Christian Century

Say That the River Turns: The Impact of Gwendolyn Brooks, edited by Haki R. Madhubuti

Gwendolyn Brooks, Consultant in Poetry: Research Guide at the Library of Congress

“Write about life as it comes to you.”
(Gwendolyn Brooks at a “Writers Live at the Library” program at Quincy High School, November 17, 1993.)

We Real Cool, Poetry Reading with Paper-Cut Puppetry of Bronzeville 

Gwendolyn Brooks Reads Her Poetry with Comment at the Library of Congress Recording Laboratory in 1961

Gwendolyn Brooks Reading Her Poetry, Digital Recording of her 1968 Poetry Album

An Interview with Gwendolyn Brooks with Alan Jabbour (Library of Congress)  and E. Ethelbert Miller (African American Resource Center at Howard University)

“Gwendolyn Brooks Interview with Paul Angle” in We Asked Gwendolyn Brooks about the Creative Environment in Illinois, 1966.

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

Maud Martha, a novel by Gwendolyn Brooks

The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks, American Poets Project Anthology of Brooks’ poetry

Bronzeville Boys and Girls, a picture book by Gwendolyn Brooks


Alleanna Harris

Meet the artist, Alleanna Harris, of this year’s Core Book illustration 

Purchase Alleanna Harris’ artwork