Gwendolyn Brooks revisits Prufrock’s hell, The

love song of Satin-Legs Smith: Gwendolyn Brooks revisits Prufrock’s hell, The

Saunders, Judith P

Gwendolyn Brooks’s poem “The Sundays of Satin-Legs Smith” (1944) alludes unobtrusively throughout to T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (1915), which in turn refers both explicitly and implicitly to Dante’s Inferno (1321). Together, Eliot’s and Brooks’s poems form a double-layered trajectory pointing back to a common fourteenth-century source, offering two distinctly different Modern revisions of its assumptions.1 In their recasting of the Inferno, Eliot and Brooks locate hell on earth, in human social environments where their fictive characters are permanent residents; it is readers, rather than protagonists, who are taken on illuminating guided tours. Both poems provide stinging critiques of twentieth-century civilization, with its manifest social, ethical, and spiritual problems.Just as Eliot’s depiction of Prufrock and his environment derives ironic impact from allusion to the Inferno, Brooks’s portrait of Smith depends for similar effect upon covert comparison with Eliot’s.

Brooks’s familiarity with Eliot’s poetry is well established. She mentions first reading his work at age sixteen, and she expresses special regard for “Prufrock” (Report 173): 1 do like, for instance, Eliot’s ‘Prufrock,’ and The Waste Land, ‘Portrait of a Lady,’ and some others of those earlier poems” (Report 156). Readers have discussed Eliot’s influence on diction, phrasing, imagery, tone, theme, and narrative posture in a number of the poems in her first book, A Street in Bronzeville, the collection in which “Satin-Legs” first appeared (Kent, A Life 140; Melhem, Brooks 29-30, 49; Smith 43-50). Specific parallels between “SatinLegs” and “Prufrock” have been recognized, moreover, although they have not generated extensive comment. D. H. Melhem, for example, observes that Brooks’s poem approximates Eliot’s in length, that it “similarly deals with an antiheroic vision,” and that its aims reinforce Eliot’s while at the same time raising others: “Eliot would improve us socially and spiritually. Brooks, no less concerned, probes social ills at their roots in poverty and discrimination” (Brooks 34). Gary Smith notes intriguing contrasts in self-image and personal style between Prufrock and Brooks’s protagonist; he suggests that “Satin-Legs” (along with two other well known poems in the Bronzeville collection) offers “parodic challenges to T. S. Eliot’s dispirited anti-hero” (46). This understanding of “Satin-Legs” is briefly underscored by Ann Stanford (169). Brooks’s allusion is sufficiently elaborate, however, to require more detailed investigation than it has yet received if the relationship between the two poems is to be appreciated fully.

Formally, Brooks’s poem models itself on Eliot’s to a considerable degree . Total length is equivalent-Brooks’s 153 lines measured against Eliot’s 131. Both poems are divided into unequal, non-schematically arranged sections, ranging from short, two-line bits to longer chunks of twenty lines or more. Both rely heavily on rhyme, favoring couplets but committed to casual or accidental placement rather than to any definite scheme. Brooks’s poem shows more instances of internal rhyme, and Eliot’s more examples of repeated lines and phrases. Both poems tend strongly toward an iambic rhythm, but except in her short epilogue Brooks sticks faithfully to a pentameter line-“a well-mastered, fluid blank verse” (Kent, A Life 70)-while Eliot swings easily from three-foot to fiveand even six- or seven-foot lines. Diction in both cases is demanding, often Latinate; these poems achieve eloquence with rich vocabulary and sometimes elaborate syntax. They are peppered with high cultural references and allusions. Prosodical and rhetorical choices in both poems combine to create an unusual balance between gravity and elegance, on the one hand, wryness and wit on the other.

The strong echo in rhythm is matched by equally noticeable echoing in phrasing. Both titles refer to the something of Somebody. Brooks has simply substituted anew name and, more significantly, replaced the term “love song” with that of “Sundays.” This shift works to underline the irony in Brooks’s reworking of Eliot’s theme: her protagonist lacks the spiritual hungers of his predecessor, and Sunday emphatically is not, as a reader might first anticipate, a day of worship and prayer for him. It is rather the day when he, in stark contrast to the lonely, rejection-haunted Prufrock, steps out on the town with a woman and eventually takes her to bed. On Sundays Smith achieves the love that eludes Prufrock throughout his “love song.”

Both poets shape narratives around a central character, but Brooks departs from Eliot’s model by declining to let her protagonist speak for himself. Her poem is not a dramatic monologue-and for excellent reasons. Her decision to present her character indirectly, to speak for him rather than through him, constitutes the most decisive difference between her formal rhetorical choices and Eliot’s. Smith says nothing on his own behalf. He stands in diametrical contrast to Prufrock, whose eloquence in articulating his misery in no way helps him to surmount it, and whose verbal sophistication does not enable him to establish meaningful communication with other human beings. Smith’s inability to articulate the insights Brooks’s narrating voice supplies obviously calls for a different rhetorical strategy than that operating in “Prufrock.” Eliot’s protagonist speaks aloud, to himself and to his readers, relying on unarticulated but implicit similarities between his situation and theirs. Brooks, for her part, must act as intermediary between protagonist and readers, explaining and sometimes justifying choices or behavior she assumes readers otherwise would neither understand nor be prepared to admire: “the poem runs a contrast between white expectations and black reality” (Kent, “Aesthetic” 42).^sup 2^

In terms of setting, action, and theme, we observe Brooks laying down central premises closely aligned with Eliot’s, i.e., she locates her protagonist in “hell” and focuses on his quest for female companionship. Like Eliot, she draws on Dantean imagery to suggest the netherworld. Eliot evokes “yellow fog” and “yellow smoke” that correspond to the “forever dirty” and “dismal air,” the “most acrid” smoke of the Inferno (Eliot 15-25; Dante 111, 28; VI, 11; IX, 72). The foul atmosphere of the Inferno, described with emphasis and frequency, functions as an objective correlative to the sinfulness of hell’s occupants; evil is realized concretely in the tainted air. Eliot’s “yellow fog” and smoke similarly suggest corruption, but also exercise an unexpected soporific effect, dulling the sharpness of the protagonist’s anguish. The famous opening comparison of the evening sky to “a patient etherized upon a table” makes clear the anesthetizing power of the polluting haze (3). To a man who feels like a live insect stuck squirming on a pin, anesthesia must be welcome, for it diminishes clarity of conscious perception, hence the domestication of the cat-like yellow fog, which becomes a comforting presence as the poem proceeds.

The effect of fog in Brooks’s poem closely mimics that in Eliot’s, but it exists on a wholly figurative level. When she shows Smith emerging from his hotel room to stroll through a desperately poor part of Chicago, we are told that “sounds about him smear, / Become a unit” (79-80). “He hears and does not hear” the sounds of wretchedness surrounding him, e.g., “a woman’s oath,” the “spiritless expectoration” of a tubercular neighbor (80, 83, 84). In the following stanza, Smith’s sense of sight undergoes a parallel kind of deadening. “Pictures, too, as usual, are blurred. / He sees and does not see” signs of misery that greet him on every side: broken windows mended with newspaper, children dressed in ragged clothing, “men estranged… from wonder and from joy” (8990, 96-97). Here haziness is not an attribute of the external environment, but a half-deliberately induced blunting of the protagonist’s human senses. For Smith, as for Prufrock, such dulling of perception is crucial for warding off pain. Only when reality “smears” or “blurs” does it become bearable. Brooks echoes Eliot even more closely when she tells readers that “the pasts; of [Smith’s] ancestors lean against / Him” and “fog out his identity” (114-20). In these lines she attempts to explain that Smith must be understood in terms of his heritage. No matter how little he himself recognizes that his tastes and goals have been shaped by the deprivations that constitute his legacy, Brooks demands that we see him as part of a larger panorama of social and moral problems. Associated with generations of social injustice and its consequences on individual “identity,” “fog” continues in her poem to play a hellish role.

We know Eliot’s Prufrock is in hell or its equivalent because of the poem’s epigraph. His wretchedness and self-condemnation reinforce our natural inclination to interpret his environment, however apparently privileged, as a hell on earth. Brooks provides no clue so direct as Eliot’s epigraph, but her portrayal of urban poverty, including harsh glimpses of racial stratification, sufficiently suggests the hellishness of Smith’s everyday world. The “hotel” in which he lives may in fact constitute an allusion to the “one-night cheap hotels” in the streets through which Prufrock leads us in the opening lines of Eliot’s poem (74, 6). Smith lives in the world Prufrock merely passes through, a world which Prufrock is inclined to romanticize: “Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets / And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes / Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?. .. ” (70-72). Even Brooks’s unusual word choice in describing Smith’s outcast status-“his desertedness”-may be intended as evocation of the “half-deserted streets” along which Prufrock moves to reach the upper-class, tea party world in which he belongs (4). The outward conditions of Smith’s life are the obverse of Prufrock’s: six days of the week for Smith are “shabby,” filled with “intricate fear … / postponed resentments … prim precautions” (10-11). If on Sundays he feels “royal,” this temporary elevation of mood stands in contrast to the ongoing powerlessness he experiences as a black man earning a precarious living in a white-dominated socioeconomic system: the Chicago of the 1940’s. The movie scene (lines 121-25) further defines the dangers and humiliations to which racial prejudice exposes him, e.g., “the heroine / Whose ivory and yellow it is sin / For his eye to eat of’ (122-24). In this section tone is arguably at its bitterest, as Brooks briefly sketches out the backdrop against which Smith’s triumphantly fulfilling Sunday activities occur.

Brooks builds on the steadily emerging similarities between her poem and Eliot’s to showcase a series of contrasts between Smith and Prufrock. These can be summarized in terms of background, temperament, behavior, and self-image. Prufrock inhabits a world of upper-class wealth and privilege; Smith lives surrounded by poverty and racial prejudice. Prufrock describes his social world articulately, even theatrically, and he judges its deficiencies harshly; Smith neither analyzes his situation nor generalizes from it (Williams 59). Prufrock is motivated to challenge the larger problems he discerns and condemns, although he lacks the courage to follow through; Smith contemplates no rebellion, concentrating his energies instead on forging purely personal satisfactions. Prufrock expresses feelings of unease and inadequacy, despite membership in an elite social group; notwithstanding his lack of social status, Smith demonstrates assertiveness and self-esteem. Socially, Prufrock fears the negative judgments of others, particularly of women; Smith expects and receives positive reactions from others in his social universe, especially from women.

These large contrasts are buttressed by many particulars, as Brooks carefully juxtaposes her protagonist to Eliot’s. Clothing, for instance, gleans a relatively minor mention in Eliot’s poem but functions as a central motif in Brooks’s. Prufrock bemoans his appearance in order to convey his lack of self-trust, his obsession with the critical judgments of his social companions: those eyes that will “fix [him] in a formulated phrase” until he is “pinned and wriggling on the wall” (55-58). Sure that he is dressed impeccably (“my necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin”), Prufrock nevertheless believes the impression he makes is “almost ridiculous” (43, 118). He dwells on signs of his aging not only to emphasize the passing of time and his own inaction, but to suggest his unattractiveness to the opposite sex. Hence Brooks is able to employ Smith’s obsession with fancy clothing and outward appearance to highlight vital differences between the two characters. Smith’s self-esteem (“he looks into his mirror, loves himself’) and his successful pursuit of women, traits that distinguish him definitively from Prufrock, are intimately connected with his outrageous wardrobe (64). The “wonder-suits in yellow, and in wine,” the “ballooning pants” and “hysterical ties” are the source of his nickname and of his reputation as a lady’s man: “Inamoratas, with an approbation, / Bestowed his title. Blessed his inclination” (48, 52, 54, 1-2). His “vault” of a closet contains his most precious possessions, fuels his Sunday well-being and sense of self-worth: “He is fat / And fine this morning” (45, 4-5).

In showing the reader “the innards” of Smith’s extravagantly stocked clothing closet, Brooks alludes to the opening line of Eliot’s poem with ironic effect (51). “Let us go then, you and L” Prufrock urges, inviting readers to enter the world of his loneliness and self-deprecating impotence (1). “Let us go,” “let us go,” he reiterates twice more in this first section of the poem (4, 12). Using nearly identical wording@”Let us proceed”-Brooks’s narrating voice invites readers to join in examining Smith’s wardrobe, source of the very real satisfactions he achieves despite circumscribed opportunities (43). Persistent regal imagery in the opening sections of the poem further highlights this difference between the two characters. Smith feels “royal” on Sundays: “he designs his reign,” lives out the full significance of his “title” (4, 6, 2). For his part, Prufrock explicitly rejects any such notion: “I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be” (110). Closer by far, in terms of actual wealth and status, to royalty than Smith (whose “heritage of cabbage and pigtails” is explicitly noted), Prufrock nonetheless despairs of realizing qualities of eminence, authority, or initiative (27).

Eliot’s cat imagery also makes a brief appearance in this section of Brooks’s poem, reinforcing the contrasts in self-image between the two characters. Where Prufrock looks to the anesthetizing, comfortingly domesticated “yellow smoke… / Rubbing its back upon the window panes” to alleviate his anxieties (24-25), Smith finds solace in his own appearance and schemes: awakening, he “unwinds, elaborately: a cat / Tawny, reluctant, royal” (3-4). More like a lion than like Prufrock’s tame housecat, he embarks upon his day with full confidence in his own physical and mental fitness to prevail in his environment. Thus Brooks transforms Eliot’s metaphor: instead of signaling surrender to a deadening environment, the cat becomes an image of personal power and pride.

The quest for women’s company, which provides impetus for the forward movement in both poems, clearly forms a major point of contrast between the two protagonists. Prufrock fears rejection to such an extent that he cannot approach a woman at all. In fact, he scarcely looks at women as whole beings, seeing instead merely body parts, garments, and accessories: “arms,” bracelets, “a shawl,” “a dress” (62, 66, 64). He names no particular woman as the object of his desire or the audience for his love song, and he regards all females as the embodiment of humiliating criticism. If he tries to tell a woman “all,” including revelation of his metaphysical questions and insights, she might simply dismiss him: “That is not what I meant at all” (95-97). And his yearning to confide in a sympathetic female is undercut by a fundamental ambivalence: the women he observes who “come and go / Talking of Michelangelo” look like willing participants in the scheme of social hypocrisy and self-disguise he despises (13-14, 35-36). He wishes, apparently, for an all-wise, quasi-divine woman, perhaps someone like the Beatrice figure in Dante’s trilogy, a woman who would provide a combination of spiritual guidance, moral example, and human love. Frustrated by the absence of any such goddess-like rescuer, he finds otherworldly females only in the mythic mermaids who appear at the poem’s conclusion. And these fabulous females, too, he is certain, will turn away from him and refuse to exercise their siren-like powers on him. He is so worthless, in his own view, that even creatures who derive amusement from enticing men to their doom will not waste their time enticing and destroying him: “I do not think that they will sing to me” (125). Insofar as the sirens’ song is a representation of male desire (male urges displaced and attributed instead to the fatally seductive females), Prufrock ends his love song expressing fears that desire itself-along with actual women-will elude him.

Smith’s quest for female companionship could not be more different. Untroubled by self-doubts and consistently successful, he is portrayed as having squired and bedded numerous women. If readers are perturbed by his lack of monogamous focus, he is not: there is no hint that he wishes his relations with the opposite sex to be anything other than what they are.?The poem opens, moreover, with the statement that he is popular with women. They appreciate his clothes; they enjoy his company; they have “bestowed” upon him the nickname of “Satin-legs.” Brooks concludes her poem with six italicized lines depicting Smith’s lovemaking with the selected “lady” of the week. This day on which he is king, managing to transcend the deprivations and degradations that otherwise shape his life, ends with the most fundamental of human pleasures:

Her body is like new brown bread

Under the Woolworth mignonette.

Her body is a honey bowl

Whose waiting honey is deep and hot.

Her body is like summer earth,

Receptive, soft, and absolute …. (148-53)

Food imagery (“bread,” “honey”) indicates how much he is nourished and sustained by this connection; D. H. Melhem notes the “delicacy” of the “lyric epilogue,” which lends the conclusion of Brooks’s poem “a startlingly romantic note” (34). His experience of the female body is said, furthermore, to be “absolute.” The poem concludes with this word, which lends extra significance to the human event and human feelings it characterizes. The encounter itself may be transitory, but while it lasts the experience is perfect in its human completeness: nothing is missing. Thus Smith, for all the poverty and external

difficulties in his life, achieves with a woman the satisfactions unrealized by his wealthy counterpart in Eliot’s poem. Smith’s quest ends in the simple consummation of desire; Prufrock’s ends only with fears about his relations with women, doubts concerning his own erotic potential.

Brooks’s poem effectively strips eros of the metaphysical weight it carries in Eliot’s and Dante’s poems. Both Brooks’s predecessors associate woman’s love with redemption. Protagonists unable to extricate themselves from a moral and spiritual “dark wood,” or its equivalent, require external, female guidance (Headings 21). Dante’s protagonist, of course, receives such guidance, while Eliot’s does not. Prufrock’s desires are more complicated than Smith’s in that Prufrock seeks to share profound, vaguely metaphysical communication with a woman, and possibly also to articulate to her his denunciation of his social universe (Headings 24). Certainly his wish to “force the moment to its crisis” has implications that go beyond the physical (80). This difference between his desires and Smith’s appears in large measure to be a by-product of economic and educational differences between them and in no way blunts the fact that Brooks’s protagonist obtains fulfillment on his own terms, where Eliot’s fails to do so. Smith does not need to look to women for spiritual solace or insight. The good he seeks with them is free of transcendent meanings because, unlike Dante or Prufrock, he is not perceived-by himself or by his poet-creator-as enmeshed in any guilty collaboration. He is free of the morbid introspection that is Prufrock’s most salient trait for the best of reasons: the injustice and aridity of the environment in which he finds himself are emphatically none of his making.

Why, after all, are these characters in “hell” in the first place? To what ends do the poets offer readers these guided tours through regions of the damned? In each case, the implied relationship between narrator and reader provides an important clue in understanding the poet’s purposes. As already noted, Eliot’s Prufrock assumes readers know, or at least understand, his world of porcelain and marmelade and cultural oneup-manship. If readers do not end in judging Prufrock quite as severely as he judges himself, it is because they recognize something of themselves in him. Readers, too, have experienced the power of social structures and strictures to thwart the quest for human and spiritual fulfillment. They too have been “afraid” (86). And, like Prufrock, readers perhaps can recognize their own collusion with these same stifling social forces. The epigraph to Eliot’s poem forces readers to consider whether they themselves may be living in an earthly hell: will they learn, Dantelike, from observing Prufrock’s futile torments, or are they doomed to participate in endless cycles of personal and metaphysical sterility?

As already noted, Brooks’s poem addresses an audience much more distant from the protagonist. Frequently the poetnarrator interrupts the narration of Smith’s day to caution readers against evaluating him by inappropriate standards. As Stanford points out, Brooks’s narrator assumes a set of “unsympathetic and uncomprehending readers” (162). These “implied” readers play a crucial role in the poem, bearing the brunt of Brooks’s satiric energy: “In the dynamic between the narrator of the poem and the reader/critic, Brooks critiques and revises an aesthetics predicated on the assumption of white EuroAmerican superiority” (162, 163). Without guidance, Brooks clearly implies, an audience unfamiliar with Smith’s world will condemn his tastes-in music, in perfume, in women and, above all, in clothes. Over and over she tells readers that poverty and lack of education explain many differences between Smith’s aesthetic values and theirs. Yet underlying these differences, she insists, there are essential commonalities; once perceived, these commonalities may persuade readers that Smith’s approach to living is not really so very different from their own after all. Brooks speaks, for instance, of the need in life for alluring scents (“life must be aromatic”), for self-adornment, for food, for beauty, for sex (15). All humans need these things, but the forms in which they seek them vary. Smith’s tastes could resemble those of the implied readers only if he shared those readers’ socio-economic and cultural background. His urge to clothe himself in fabrics, colors, and patterns that their “limited understanding” deems garish to the point of offensiveness “represents the indomitability of the human spirit in its quest for beauty,” expressing itself in an alien, but not illegitimate, set of aesthetic standards (Stanford 163; Kent, A Life 69). As Brooks herself has articulated the point elsewhere, “human beings will break away from ache to dance, to sing, to create, no matter how briefly, how intermittently…. [L]ike an under-earth river, that impulse to beauty and art runs fundamentally, relentlessly” (qtd. in Melhem, “Humanism” 33).

His background renders Smith incapable of appreciating understated effects: he wants his women to wear “three layers of lipstick, intense hat / Dripping with the most voluble of veils” (134-35). He enjoys “affable externes …. [L]ike sweet bombs” because only intensity and extremity will speak to a man with “no education / In quiet arts of compromise” (136, 138-39). By upper-middle class standards Smith’s preferences are flamboyant, but with passing references to “baroque” and “Rococo” Brooks reminds us that the aesthetic tastes of Western high culture have gone through periods when the elaborately ornate was valued (73). One obvious effect of her portrait is to bridge some of the distance between Smith and the reader, to generate a degree of fellowship between them (Miller 104). In the end Smith removes the garments that have come to represent critical differences separating his world from the reader’s, and he goes to bed naked, these external distinctions peeled away.

The only way to universalize upper-middle class taste, Brooks flatly informs us, would be through universal redistribution of upper-middle class wealth. There is “little hope” of reforming the tastes of a Smith unless we are willing “to set the world a-boil / And do a lot of equalizing things, / Remove a little ermine, say, from kings, / Shake hands with paupers and appoint them men” (36-40). The poem constitutes an unmistakable indictment of the economic and social system responsible for Smith’s circumstances. The moral and political questions directed toward the reader are more pointed and more disturbing than those in Eliot’s poem precisely because of the greater distance between reader and protagonist. Where Eliot would have us ask ourselves whether we are acquiescing in our own damnation, Brooks forces us to ask whether we have acquiesced in the damning of others. Working to break down barriers of class and race between reader and protagonist, the poem compels acknowledgment of sweeping social evil. Brooks achieves her purposes all the more powerfully by emphasizing her protagonist’s strengths and achievements more than his grievances. He is not foremost a victim, as she presents him, but a man who against all odds has contrived for himself a bearable, sometimes even joyful, existence in circumstances-arguably hellish-to which he has been consigned without justice or reason.

Smith’s successes emerge with all the more clarity against the backdrop of the comparison with Prufrock operating quietly throughout Brooks’s poem. The sustained allusion to Eliot’s dramatic monologue, built on parallels in setting and plot, and reinforced by echoes in phrasing, imagery, and prosody, is a key element in Brooks’s carefully crafted campaign to shape reader response to her unusual protagonist. Indeed, to win esteem for a character like Satin-Legs Smith is far from simple, and the contrast with Prufrock provides just the vehicle Brooks needs to accomplish that difficult task. In terms of characterization, she effectively turns Eliot’s poem inside out, portraying a man of low status and low income who nevertheless manages his life more competently than does his wealthy, high-status counterpart in Eliot’s poem. Diametric differences between the two protagonists push readers toward admiration for Brooks’s, fueling a corresponding impatience with Eliot’s. The more we shake our heads at Prufrock, who has failed miserably to enjoy his many advantages, the more we celebrate Smith, who has realized so much satisfaction even in a context of poverty and prejudice. The effect of allusion in Brooks’s poem, finally, is to compel appreciation of Smith’s unsubdued vitality. Refusing to succumb to despair or self-pity, even in an environment that would excuse such surrender, Smith triumphantly reverses nearly every one of Prufrock’s failures.

1Philip R. Headings provides a useful overview and discussion of Dantean allusions in “Prufrock.” See “Dantean Observations” in T. S. Eliot, Revised Edition (19-31).

2Ann Folwell Stanford’s 1990 essay on “Satin-Legs” provides a detailed and perceptive analysis of the relationship betwen narrator and reader in the poem. She shows, point by point, how Brooks “confronts the problem of unsympathetic and uncomprehending readers by writing an implied reader… directly into the text” (162). The poem thus “functions as a corrective primer in reading poetry that has roots in a tradition and culture that is ‘other.’ Moreover, it upsets the balance of power, placing SatinLegs’ tradition and life in the center, forcing the reader/critic to confront the uncomfortable possibility that his or her world is the foreign one” (168).

3R. Baxter Miller, for instance. asserts that Smith’s amorous adventures constitute an escape from his problems rather than a resolution of them. Miller argues that Brooks’s presentation of that escape is ironic, not celebratory, a part of Smith’s failure to conceptualize his situation in larger sociopolitical terms (101-07).


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Smith, Gary. “A Street in Bronzeville, the Harlem Renaissance, and the Mythologies of Black Women.” Melus. 10.3 (1983): 261-77. Rpt. in Modern Critical Views: Contemporary Poets. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea, 1986. 43-56.

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Williams, Kenny J. “The World of Satin-Legs, Mrs. Sallie, and the Blackstone Rangers: The Restricted Chicago of Gwendolyn Brooks.” A Life Distilled: Gwendolyn Brooks, Her Poetry and Fiction. Eds. Maria K. Mootry and Gary Smith. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1987. 47-70.

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