Linda Beatrice Brown

(b. 1939)

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(b. 1939), poet, novelist, and professor.

Linda Beatrice Brown was a rising young poet of the 1960s and 1970s whose mentor was the poet Gwendolyn Brooks. She has one published volume of poetry, A Love Song to Black Men (1974). In 1984 she published a novel, Rainbow Roun Mah Shoulder (under the name Linda Brown Bragg). This work is in the tradition of Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) in its southern African American heroine, skillful use of southern African American speech patterns, and depiction of the interrelatedness of God, nature, and the supernatural in the African American folk community. Some of her first poems appeared in the well-known anthology edited by Rosey Pool entitled Beyond the Blues (1960), and her work later appeared in publishing outlets such as the Black Scholar, Encore, Ebony, and Writer's Choice.

Brown was born in Akron, Ohio, on 14 March 1939 to Raymond and Edith Player Brown. She attended college at the historic all-black, all-female Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina, where she had opportunities to hear poetry readings by Langston Hughes and Sterling A. Brown. While a junior in college she published her first poem, “Precocious Curiosity,” in Beyond the Blues; she earned her bachelor's degree in 1961. She furthered her education by obtaining a masters degree in 1962 from Case Western Reserve University, where she was a Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellow. That was also the year she married Harold Bragg. She spent the next two years on a teaching fellowship at Kent State University. Her son Christopher was born in 1967 and her daughter Willa in 1969. For sixteen years (1970–1986), Brown taught at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She also earned a PhD from Union Graduate School in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1980.

Brown recognizes a variety of influences on her poetry. The English Romantics, the focus of her graduate studies, were an influence on her early poetry. She says later influences were Robert Frost because of his “simplicity, his use of conversational feeling, and his quiet serenity”; Brooks because of “her clean use of language, her unconventional metaphor”; and Haki R. Madhubuti (Don L. Lee) because of his “rhythmic quality”.

A Brown poem may have a conversational or musical rhythm. A line of speech ringing in her head may be the inspiration for a poem with natural, conversational rhythm. A background saturated with music (she took voice lessons for several years) accounts for the musical rhythm of some of her poetry. Her poem “High on Sounds”, for instance, has the rhythm of African American music.

Brown writes primarily for an African American audience, and some facet of the African American experience is usually the inspiration for or subject of her poetry. She views her poetry as an instrument for African American survival. She feels the African American poet has the responsibility to make political statements but should also have the freedom to write on any subject. Brown feels no conflict between being political as well as artistic in her poetry.


Subjects: Literature.

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