Monday Text: Gwendolyn Brooks’s Maud Martha

Every line in Gwendolyn Brooks’s Maud Martha is a polished gem. Asali Solomon agrees. Whenever I need to lube my style-gears, I open my dogeared and annotated-to-death copy of Maud Martha to a random page to find gold. Then I copy the gold to feel the magic in my fingers:

spring landscape: detail

The school looked solid. Brownish-red brick, dirty cream stone trim. Massive chimney, candid, serious. The sky was gray, but the sun was making little silver promises somewhere up there, hinting. A wind blew. What sort of June day was this? It was more like the last days of November. It was more than rather bleak; still, there were these little promises, just under cover; whether they would fulfill themselves was anybody’s guess. 

Up the street, mixed in the wind, blew the children, and turned the corner onto the brownish-red brick school court. It was wonderful. Bits of pink, of blue, white, yellow, green, purple, brown, black, carried by jerky little stems of brown or yellow or brown-black, blew by the unhandsome gray and decay of the double-apartment buildings, past the little plots of dirt and scanty grass that held up their narrow brave banners: please keep off the grass–newly seeded. There were lives in the buildings. Past the tiny lives the children blew. Cramp, inhibition, choke–they did not trouble themselves about these. They spoke shrilly of ways to fix curls and pompadours, of ‘nasty’ boys and ‘sharp’ boys, of Joe Louis, of ice cream, of bicycles, of baseball, of teachers, of examinations, of Duke Ellington, of Bette Davis. They spoke of–or at least Maud Martha spoke–of the sweet potato pie that would be served at home. (4-5)

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