Primed for Read-In, English Professor Honors Poet Gwendolyn Brooks

By Purnell T. Cropper | February 18, 2011

Editor’s Note: The Bulletin asked Dr. Kalenda Eaton, Assistant Professor of African American Literature, to share two of her favorite poems and a piece of non-fiction with readers. She graciously obliged and went a step further, describing why she prizes the particular texts. First up: “when you have forgotten Sunday: the love story,” a poem by Gwendolyn Brooks published in 1981.

Everyday Love Stories

By Dr. Kalenda Eaton

Gwendolyn Brooks is by far one of the most well-known and well-respected poets of the twentieth century. With that being said, I have always considered her snapshots of everyday life to be simple, yet beautiful in their ability to tell a complete story. I first read the poem in question (“when you have forgotten Sunday: the love story”) in college. We were required to read Maud Martha, a novella also by Brooks, and I decided to read some of her other work.

I remember flipping through my anthology of African American Literature and resting at this poem. What struck my attention was the title, specifically “the love story.” At first I was puzzled, if this poem is about someone forgetting, which sounded very accusatory, then where is the love?

Eaton reads “when you have forgotten Sunday: the love story,” by Gwendolyn Brooks.

As soon as I began reading the words ran with and alongside each other like Pamplona’s bulls. We are inserted in the middle of something (thought? argument? warning?) and not released until the very end. The poem reads as one long narrative, with the sermonic presentation of intimate memories barely allowing the reader to breathe. All of the senses are aroused—visual (“bright bedclothes”); auditory (“somebody beeped the bell”); olfactory (“chocolate chip cookies”); tactile (“gently folded into each other”); and gustatory, i.e. taste (“chicken and rice”). The last two lines provide the hint of loss, although they can be read as a final statement on the persona’s unconditional love that has stood the test of time.

Visit Arcadia University’s Facebook page to read Eaton’s reflection on Eloise Greenfield’s 1978 poem “Harriet Tubman” and to hear her talk about bringing a version of the African American Read-In to Arcadia University. The event takes place Wednesday, Feb. 23, from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in The Chat Performance Area.