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Analysis of Poem: We Real Cool

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Analysis of We Real Cool

The poem I chose to write about is titled "We Real Cool" by Gwendolyn Brooks. It was published in the book The Bean Eaters in1960. The poem is shown below (Brooks, 999).



We real cool. We

Left school. We

Lurk late. We

Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We

Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We

Die soon.

While this poem is rather short, it nevertheless proves to be rather powerful. Through the use of distinctive language, clear imagery, and the literary tool of alliteration, Gwendolyn Brooks, conveys the dire consequences that result from the careless lifestyles of troubled youth. Although the poem begins in a positive tone and describes a number of recreational activities such as playing pool, staying up late and drinking gin, and listening to Jazz that are enjoyed by a group of young men. The poem however takes on an ominous tone at the end suggesting that although young, these pool layers will soon meet their deaths.

This poem contains much imagery and wordplay. For instance, simply after reading the title, the reader is made to picture a smoky bar where seven young men are playing pool into the late hours of the night. In the subtitle stating "seven at the golden shovel", the words seven and golden suggest that the boys are rather lucky at pool. The word shovel however has a negative connotation and is associated with burial. It suggests the onset of an ominous event. It also foreshadows the last line of the poem which states that the pool players will "die soon" due to their carefree lifestyle. The poem is written from the point of view of the pool players. The consistent use of the word "we" instead of I or you emphasize the group identity of these pool players. It appears that they see themselves not as individuals, but rather as a group that is united against social obstacles they may encounter (Smirnoff 1). Combined with other imagery found in this poem, the group identity of these pool players also implies that the group may have ganglike characteristics. The use of slang instead of conventional English grammar in the poem hints that the pool players are likely street youth, and possibly African American as suggested by their style of slang. The carefree, confident attitude of the pool players and their disrespect for education is also conveyed by the fact they say "we real cool, we Left school".

Although these boys are young, it is clear from the poem that they participate in several adult-like activities. This is particularly evident by the lines "we lurk late, we strike straight, we sing sin, we thin gin." In these simple lines, the reader learns a multitude of information about the lifestyles of the pool players. It is evident from these lines that the boys stay out rather late and drink alcohol irresponsibly. It is however unclear what types of sins the boys may be involved in, it is therefore up to the reader's imagination to decide whether the sins spoken here are carefree sex, drug abuse, theft, or some other immoral act. What is meant by the line "We Jazz June" is also



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