Poetry Analysis “We Real Cool”By Gwendolyn Brooks
Poem: 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.  Audio
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 Centre • 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 desires) • 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] memorable
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 poem.
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.