“We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks

The pool players.
Seven at the Golden Shovel.

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

About the Author

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) grew up and lived her life in Chicago. While still in her teens, she published poems in Chicago’s African American newspaper. It wasn’t long before her poetry became nationally recognised, and she won the Pulitzer. Poetry was the focus of Brook’s life, and she continued to be a prolific writer as well as a teacher and poetry advocate. She taught creative writing at a number of colleges and universities. Her publications and awards were numerous, including her appointment as a Poetry Consultant at the Library of Congress in 1985.

Summary the Poem

‘We Real Cool’ is a poem written in 1959 by poet Gwendolyn Brooks and published in her 1960 book The Bean Eaters, her third poetry collection . The poem has been featured on broadsides, reprinted in textbooks and is widely studied in the literature classes. It is often referred to as one of the most celebrated examples of jazz poetry”

The “we” of “We Real Cool” is a group of young people who think they’re “cool.” They’ve dropped out of school, and they like to stay out late shooting pool and doing other “cool” things.

It consists of four verses of two lines of rhyme each. The last word in most of the lines is ‘we’ The next line describes something ‘we’ do, play pool or drop out of school. Brooks said that the ‘we’s are meant to be said softly, as if the protagonists in the poem are questioning the validity of their existence. The last lines of the poem, ‘We / Die soon,’ indicate the climax that comes as a surprise to the boasts that have been made before. It also suggests a moment of self-awareness about the choices the players made. There are also references in the poem to the seven deadly sins.

Themes of We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks

Despite its short length, the poem covers a multitude of themes, some of them including rebellion and youth. At the beginning of the poem, Brooks writes, “The Pool Players / Seven at the Golden Shovel” the unique structure offers a subtitle. This gives the poem its characters and its setting.

Brooks also said that the seven pool players in the poem are fighting against the establishment with their rebellious actions. She states that the establishment will be represented by the month of June. In the same interview, Brooks explains how the poem was even banned in some areas because of the use of the word “jazz” because of a perceived sexual nature—which, Brooks said, was not her intention, as she simply intended it to represent music.

Study Questions With Answers of “We Real Cool”

Q. What does jazz June mean in the poem We Real Cool?
Ans. In that case, what kind of action is to “Jazz June”? Some readers point to “jazz” as a slang word meaning “to have sex with.” … Instead, “Jazz June” suggests freedom, improvisation, dancing, seduction, and, of course, time off school. For these guys, it’s always like June, because they are always off school.

Q. What is the mood of We Real Cool?
Ans. The tone of “We Real Cool” is straightforward and lighthearted. An example of straightforward in the poem would be “We Die soon” meaning that if they don’t change the way they are acting their life isn’t going to be the way they want it to be.

Q. What does lurk late mean?
Ans. We / Lurk late,” indicate that the speakers are probably high school or college dropouts whose principal hours are late in the evening (01-03). These are clearly denizens of the night, who are also prone to “strike straight”

Q. How does the tone evolve throughout the poem?
Ans.It remains light-hearted throughout the poem, as the boys don’t take their actions or the possible consequences seriously. It starts off as light-hearted but becomes serious as the consequences of the boys’ carefree lifestyle becomes apparent.

Q. What is the effect of the repetition of the word we Throughout the poem We Real Cool?
Ans. Brooks utilizes repetition of the word “we” not only as a pause but to show the togetherness that this small group has. However, in the end, they all die alone. Proving that one’s decisions shouldn’t be influenced by what others think, or what others want.

Q. What inspired Gwendolyn Brooks to write We Real Cool?
Ans. In an interview, Brooks said she found her inspiration to write “We Real Cool” when she stumbled upon a pool hall of boys in her neighbourhood and quietly wondered how they felt about themselves. She also went on to publish her long poem “In the Mecca” in 1968, which was nominated for a National Book Award in poetry.

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