Short Fuse Podcast #53: Gwendolyn Brooks — A Poet’s Work in the Community

By Elizabeth Howard



Episode Summary

Nic Caldwell, the Bella da Costa Greene Curatorial fellow at the Morgan Library and Museum, talks with Elizabeth Howard about poet Gwendolyn Brooks, her work, and the recent acquisition of her personal papers for the Morgan collection and the exhibition he curated entitled “Gwendolyn Brooks: A Poet’s Work in the Community.” Nic is a memory worker, literary scholar, and visual artist, and believes poetry allows us to connect with other people to share their stories and history

Episode Notes

Gwendolyn Brooks: A Poet’s Work in the Community opened at the Morgan Library will be on view through June 5, 2022.

Comprising more than forty manuscripts, broadsides, and first editions, the exhibition explores Brooks’s roles as a poet, teacher, mentor, and community leader. The exhibition traces the effect of the resulting relationships on her work and the work of other creatives, such as Dudley Randall, Sonia Sanchez, and Jeff Donaldson. It takes us through the story of Brooks as a young poet, her early published poetry and establishes her relationship with the Black arts and publishing communities of the 1960s and ’70s. We learn of her contributions as a mentor to future writers through her children’s books and self-published guides for young poets. Nic Caldwell’s exhibition  comes at an important moment in our collective history, providing us with a blueprint for building community as an essential part of creative growth.

The Poetry Project 

Thank you to the Poetry Project for allowing us to use the recording of Gwendolyn Brooks reading at
The Poetry Project in 1981. The  program included   Ntozake Shange, the American playwright and poet. best known for her play   For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf. The reading was just after the premiere.

Library of America

Edward Hirsch’s essay on Gwendolyn Brooks can be found in The Heart of American Poetry, published by Library of America.  Elizabeth Alexander edited wrote the introduction to The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks also published by Library of America.

 DuSable Museum of African American History

Student readers

Timia McCoade is a senior at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School. This recording was arranged through Alwin Jones, chair, the English Department and director of the Fieldston Summer Academic Program.

Alex Waters is a technical producer for the Short Fuse Podcast. He is a music producer and a student at the  Berklee College of Music. He has written and produced music and edited for podcasts including  The Faith and Chai Podcast and Con Confianza. Alex writes, produces and records music for independent artists, including The Living.  He lives in Brooklyn can be reached at:

Elizabeth Howard is the host and the producer of the Short Fuse Podcast. For her, there are no barriers between her life, work, art, and writing. She seeks collaboration, flexibility, spontaneity and responsiveness in the projects she designs and completes. As the host of the Short Fuse podcast she draws individuals into lively and provocative conversations around the arts: dance, theater, literature, music, and film.

Alex Waters is a media producer and editor for the Short Fuse Podcast, a music producer, and Berklee College of Music student. He has written and produced music and edited for podcasts such as The Faith and Chai Podcast and Con Confianza. He produces his own, as well as writes music and records for independent artists such as The Living. Alex lives in Brooklyn. You can reach him with inquiries by emailing

The Short Fuse Podcast is produced by the Arts Fuse. Email:

The Arts Fuse was established in June, 2007 as a curated, independent online arts magazine dedicated to publishing in-depth criticism, along with high quality previews, interviews, and commentaries. The publication’s over 60 freelance critics (many of them with decades of experience) cover dance, film, food, literature, music, television, theater, video games, and visual arts.

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