Clef Notes Chicagoland Journal for the Arts
Acclaimed Chicago poet Gwendolyn Brooks (photo by the Associated Press).
The Poetry Foundation has commissioned theater production company Manual Cinema to visually represent the life and work of one of Chicago’s most beloved literary figures, poet Gwendolyn Brooks, in what would have been her hundredth year. Manual Cinema combines handmade shadow puppetry and innovative sound and music to create immersive visual stories. The work is entitled No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks, and the script was co-written by Chicago poets Eve L. Ewing and Nate Marshall with music commissioned from Jamila Woods and Ayanna Woods. The composers were granted permission from the Brooks estate for the first time to write a song using Brooks’s famous poem “We Real Cool.”
“Whether you’re a diehard Brooks fan or someone who is new to her work, we want everyone to walk away with a new favorite poem,” says co-author and poet Eve Ewing. “Her work continues to be relevant, and will always be relevant, because it will always be important for regular people to tell stories about where they’re from.”
“It is an honor to take Eve Ewing’s and Nate Marshall’s nuanced, detailed vision of Brooks’s life and realize it in paper and acetate,” said Manual Cinema Director Sarah Fornace. “I cannot wait to get in the room with our incredible team of actors and put together the poetry, puppetry, and music of this epic live cinematic show!”
Gwendolyn Brooks was thirteen when her first published poem, “Eventide,” appeared in American Childhood; by the time she was seventeen, she was publishing poems frequently in the Chicago Defender. Her first collection of poems, A Street in Bronzeville, was published in 1945. Her Pulitzer Prize–winning book of poetry, Annie Allen, followed in 1949. In 1959, her acclaimed poem “We Real Cool” was first published by Poetry Magazine, a program of the Poetry Foundation. The magazine went on to become one of the most ardent supporters of her work.
No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks will be performed for the first time before an audience of Chicago Public School students at Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy on November 11 at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
The world premiere public performances are scheduled for Friday and Saturday, November 17 and 18, at 6:30 p.m., and Sunday, November 19, at 2 p.m., at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 South State Street.