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Transcript of Gwendolyn Bennett
The Life of Gwendolyn Bennett
* Georgia Rockwood
* Alicia Boudreaux
* Seth Roy
* Jahvan Gibson
I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby
Who was Gwendolyn Bennett?
Gwendolyn was a poet, short-story writer, columnist, journalist, illustrator, graphic artist, arts educator, teacher and administrator on the New York City Works Progress Administration Federal Arts Project (1935-1941). Gwendolyn Bennett was one of the most versatile figures to participate actively in both the 1920s Black American arts movement, which was designated the Harlem Renaissance, and in the 1930s arts alliance formed among African-American graphic artists that was called the Harlem Artists Guild.
Non-fiction 1925 — "Negros: Inherent Craftsmen" Howard University (Feb)
Poetry 1925 — "On a Birthday" Opportunity (Sept)
Poetry 1925 — "Pugation" Opportunity Record (Feb)
Short Stories 1926 — Wedding Day Fire!!
Short Stories 1926 — Tokens Ebony & Topaz
Non-fiction 1926 — "The Ebony Flute" (column) Opportunity
Non-fiction 1926 — "The American Negro Paints" Southern Workman (Jan)
Poetry 1926 — "Song" Palms (Oct)
Poetry 1926 — "Street Lamps in Early Spring" Opportunity (May)
Poetry 1926 — "Lines Written At the Grave of Alexandre Dumas" Opportunity (July)
Poetry 1926 — "Moon Tonight" Gypsy (Oct)
Poetry 1926 — "Hatred" Opportunity (June)
Poetry 1926 — "Dear Things" Palms (Oct)
Poetry 1926 — "Dirge" Palms (Oct)
Non-fiction 1934 — "I go to Camp" Opportunity (Aug)
Non-fiction 1934 — "Never the Twain Must Meet" Opportunity (Mar)
Non-fiction 1934 — "Rounding the Century: Story of the Colored Orphan Asylum & Association for the Benefit of Colored Children in New York
Poetry 1934 — "Epitaph" Opportunity (Mar)
Non-fiction 1937 — "The Harlem Artists Guild" Art Front (May)
Poetry 1923 — "Heritage" Opportunity (Dec)
Poetry 1923 — "Nocturne" Crisis (Nov)
Poetry 1923 — "Fantasy" Crisis (Jan)
Non-fiction 1924 — "The Future of the Negro in Art" Howard University Record (Dec)
Poetry 1924 — "To Usward" Crisis (May) and Opportunity (May)
Poetry 1924 — "Wind" Opportunity (Nov)
During 1923 to 1931, Bennett started a support group that provided a warm, supportive place for the young writers of Harlem that provided sustained association with their peers. Included in this group were Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Eric Walrond, Helene Johnson, Wallace Thurman, Richard Bruce Nugent, Aaron Douglas, Alta Sawyer Douglas, Rudolph Fisher and Zora Neale Hurston. The major goal of the group was to motivate these young writers to support and encourage each other and who were also, in turn, encouraged to aspire to the levels of more established scholars such as Charles S. Johnson, Alain Locke, W. E. B. Du Bois, Jessie Fauset, and James Weldon Johnson. Bennett said in a 1979 interview that, "nothing like this particular life in which you saw the same group of people over and over again. You were always glad to see them. You always had an exciting time when you were with them." This Harlem circle that Gwendolyn developed helped her sustain her steady connection with the Renaissance in New York throughout a period of her life.
I sailed in my dreams to the Land of Night
Where you were the dusk-eyed queen,
And there in the pallor of the moon veiled light
The loveliest things were seen
A slim-necked peacock sauntered there
In a garden of lavender hues,
And you were strange with your purple hair
As you sat in your amethyst chair
With your feet in your hyacinth shoes.
Oh, the moon gave a bluish light
Through the trees in the land of dreams and night.
I stood behind a bush of yellow-green
And whistled a song to the dark-haired queen
This cool night is strange
Among midsummer days...
Far frosts are caught
In the moon's pale light,
And sounds are distant laughter
Chilled to crystal tears.
Gwendolyn Bennett uses diction to convey the theme that one may not realize the effect of the advice someone gives one until it is applied in one’s own life. For example, Bennett writes, “The keen precision of your words wove a silver thread through the dusk softness of my dream-stuff” (lines 14-17). Bennett uses her diction to describe the teacher’s advice to her. She is saying the teachers “keen,” or insightful but sharp, words were so precise that they wove a silver thread (or stated such vivid and accurate truth). Another example of diction is when Bennett says, “But I remember a tapestry that I would someday weave of dim purples and fine reds and blues like night and death” (Lines 9-13). Bennett uses these words to show that she remembers a tapestry that one day she would make with the advice her teacher gave her, as in the advice that her teacher gave to her was really very important but she realized it only later in her life. By utilizing the element of diction in Gwendolyn Bennett’s poem “Advice,” she shows that although one may not understand the advice someone gives you now, it could be useful later in life.
You were a sophist,
Pale and quite remote,
As you bade me
Of dark words
And prehistoric rhythms....
Your pallor stifled my poesy
But I remembered a tapestry
That I would some day weave
Of dim purples and fine reds
Like night and death---
The keen precision of your words
Wove a silver thread
Through the dusk softness
Of my dream-stuff....
Gwendolyn Bennett uses imagery to convey the exotic environment of the speakers dream. For example, Bennett writes, “And you were strange with your purple hair, as you sat in your amethyst chair” (Lines 7-8), using colors to depict the speaker’s surroundings. Bennett uses colors to describe the objects within the speaker’s dream. The meaning behind the colors represents a world working in perfect harmony, without any separation. Another example of imagery is when the speaker in Bennett’s poem says, “A slim-necked peacock sauntered there, in a garden of lavender hues,” (Lines5-6). These lines are used to emphasize that Bennett’s idealized world is made up of these colors, it demonstrates that the world functions that the world functions as a whole. By utilizing the poetic device of imagery, Bennett emphasizes her point clearly and dramatically: a world of peace is not one of discrimination, but with accepting each other, despite differences.