Poetry Analysis of We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks
There are countless methods that are applied in the field of writing in order to fully explain one’s thoughts. In the poem We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks, there is a constant use of repetition and symbolism that takes place. Written in 1959, a time in which jazz was one of the more popular genres in music this poem was considered controversial for its portrayal of jazz as well as the characters within it. This poem while controversial was also an influence for African-Americans at the time during their civil rights movements. Through this poem there is this idea of imagery, symbolism, and many other literary devices that take place. With the devices in use, it is possible to deduce the historical significance and understand the author’s purpose for writing this poem.
Gwendolyn Brooks was an African-American writer that wrote many powerful pieces who in fact became the first woman of color to win a Pulitzer Prize. She was born in Kansas City but later moved to Chicago Illinois. Chicago at the time was slowly becoming the jazz capital of the country. The fact that jazz was such a prominent African-American music genre could very well have influenced Brooks in the creation of the poem, We Real Cool. This poem had a very controversial effect as it contained words such as jazz and contained themes that involved “negro culture.” The poem features a very different kind of wording as it sounds similar to the speech of a high school dropout.
The heading, “The pool players. Seven at the golden shovel,” could easily mean several things. It could be that the pool players are the characters and the number seven is just a direct reference to the seven deadly sins. Once noted that this is a possibility one can see that throughout the poem the characters are doing “sinful” acts or are simply being rebellious.
In the first two lines, “We real cool. We Left School.” This is already giving a basic introduction and background to the character’s mentality. There is already an immediate change in grammar from the heading and some repetition going on. In these stanzas, it sounds very similar to the belief that teenagers had that they were cool simply for skipping out on school. At the time this poem was written, playing hooky was a common thing and education wasn’t nearly as valued as it is today. Teens would constantly ditch school to go hang out with their friends or to do drugs or simply just sleep in. It could also mean that the characters not only skipped school, but they may have very well have just dropped out indefinitely. Once again supporting the idea that education was not valued especially during this time. “We Lurk late. We Strike straight,” already has given the impression that the characters are out and about late at night and are playing pool perhaps at a bar or something of the sorts. These characters should definitely not be there as it is not yet in their age group, however they have nothing to do with their time and instead just go out at night to play pool. Apart from this there could be the possibility that the words used in this could correspond to that of sexual predation. Lurking late could mean that they are simply just checking out girls similar to how an animal would stalk its prey.
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