Poetry Analysis: “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks

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“We Real Cool” definitely has a powerful message behind it.  Gwendolyn Brooks illustrates the essence of troubled teenagers who will eventually suffer the ill-fated possibility that life renders human beings while engaging in the lifestyle of the streets – death.

The teenagers are obviously not too fond about attending school.  Therefore, they skip and find solace and pleasure at a pool facility.  It seems as if the teenagers really don’t care about their education and go day by day living a happy-go-lucky lifestyle.  The happiness that they are feeling by playing pool supports that theory.

They sing.  They drink.  They ignore the seriousness of life and their future.  In all, they do anything to capture that feeling of ecstasy.  A nonchalant attitude about the players’ personas clearly resonates throughout the poem.

The constant usage of the word “We” may indicate that these boys are proclaiming their arrival at the pool facility as if they have been there before.  The bottom line is apparent:  The seven young men find their comfort at the poolroom, rather than school.

For the most part, the tone of the poem is very upbeat, while simultaneously presenting a dark atmosphere.  The entertainment the boys are engaging in presents happiness. However, the actions of the boys present bleakness with the placements of the words “Lurk late,” “Sing sin,” and “Thin gin.”

These words carry unpleasant meanings.  “Lurk” implies sneakiness with the intent of doing something wrong. “Sin” implies a moral and/or criminal wrongdoing. Being that these boys are street people, it is safe to argue that criminal activities may occur via “lurk[ing] late” at night.  “Gin,” an alcoholic beverage, is not an unpleasant term; however, in the context of the poem, it implies that these boys are drinking heavily (via “Thin”) and could possibly become intoxicated, causing an unpleasant outcome.

The unpleasant tone of the poem amplifies dramatically at the end with the following statement:  “We die soon.”  This one line alone does not only present a chilling end but firmly cements their future.

In a more in depth analysis of the final line (which refers to death), the subtitle of the poem states:  THE POOL PLAYERS.  SEVEN AT THE GOLDEN SHOVEL.  The number “seven” has the aura of good fortune while the boys shoot pool.  Moreover, the word “golden” typifies prosperity and happiness, akin to how the boys are feeling.  However, the word “shovel” signifies an ominous sign, relating to death, casket, funeral and later burial.  Brooks implies that street people will eventually die soon.  These young boys are obviously street people because they are not in school.

They live a carefree life and they could not care less about attending school, because they find it tedious.  They lack the presence of mind to grasp the importance of what school offers at the moment and how beneficial it would serve them in the future.  Such carefree mindset will present difficulties as these young boys seek employment.

Their lives have no direction and they don’t really care about anything – not even their wellbeing for the future.  They have no sense of themselves and are not aware of the importance of education, which will sooner or later become their downfall.

Their poor decision serves them no advantages in any way, because they will not be active participants in society.  Without a high school diploma, their journey to find a decent job will be limited.  Such difficulty may possibly turn the boys into criminals to obtain easy money.

Moreover, these young men are clearly dropouts and perhaps Black, supported by the lingo of the poem.  In fact, the title, “We Real Cool,” breaks the rule of proper English because it presents a slang dialect.

Even though the poem was written in 1960, it mirrors the situation of today, for many young boys and even young girls skip school every day – not to mention those who dropout.

Gwendolyn Brooks does an excellent job with this piece.  With its monosyllabic and eight-line stature, the poem is short, straightforward, and to the point.

“We Real Cool” represents an impressive piece that has a profound implication:  No education (i.e., skipping an institution of schooling that provides knowledge) and living a carefree lifestyle as a dropout will most likely lead to an unfortunate end – death.

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