*We Real Cool* By Gwendolyn Brooks

Poetry Analysis
We real cool. We
Left school. We
Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We
Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We
Jazz June. We
Die soon.
Background of the author...
 1917-2000
 1st African American to receive Pulitzer Prize for
poetry. (1950)
 Early years –
 Grew up poor
 “Spurned by other’s for loving to read and write”
 Professional career –
 Worked for NAACP
 Poems discussed racism, struggle, day to day life
 Notably inter –racial discrimination
 Changed from structured poetry
to free verse
 Later years –
 Promoted poetry within inner
city schools and even bars
 Chicago State University: Gwendolyn Brooks
 Known for chronicling the lives and struggles of
African Americans before, during and after the
civil rights movement.
We Real Cool
 Poem is a commentary on the defiance of
youth (embracing non-conformity) and their
recognition of the end result of such a life.
 A song that defines who they are at they very
moment they exist. No unnecessary words
needed to define them – their lives are simple
so the poem must be simple.
We Real Cool
The Pool Players at the Golden Shovel
 Players – actors in their own play (short / end)
 Seven – luck
 Golden – wealth of youth
 Shovel – work / death / burial
 Overall, before the poem begins it sets the
‘stage’ for how these boys see their lives
through analysis of subtext.
We Real Cool
 ‘We’
 Stop after We – verbal/mental pause, symbolizes
their validity of presence
 Signifies Value – loud: bold / soft: uncertain
We Real Cool
 Acts of defiance/non-conformity that
symbolizes their existence (coolness)
 Left School (school isn’t for them)
 Lurk Late (stay out when they want)
 Strike Straight (blunt and aggressive towards their
Sing Sin (say what they want)
Thin Gin (drink what they want)
Jazz June (sexual power)
Die soon (they determine their exit)
We Real Cool
 Brooks stated that the form is determined by the
boys in the poem, not the rhythm itself.
 Rhythm does play a factor however:
 The boys in the poem have limitations – they must
adhere to a structure – but they can alter the
limitations to suit them.
 This is why the poem has a rhyme scheme that sounds
simplistic but relevant to their social conditions.
 Repetition – daily routine
 Alliteration – recognize value of pattern (Lurk Late,
Strike Straight, Sing Sin) and makes it [them]
We Real Cool
 Dropouts (which could effectively mean many
things) who through the poem value each other
instead of the social and educational fabric that
they existed in.
 Their freedom to live in the poem inevitably
ensures that their freedom to die will be followed
in the same fashion.
 Blessing or curse?
 Brooks commentary on the social condition of
the civil rights movement is clear through this
We Real Cool
 We is a collective term for a generation that
Brooks sees in her culture.
 We – are a group in the 1950’s & 60’s who
suddenly didn’t understand why they have
trying to conform to a society which didn’t
want to recognize them anyway.

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