We Real Cool, with controversy

We jazz June. We die soon.

National Poetry Month continues.  Today: Gwendolyn Brooks’s We real cool, probably known to anyone of my generation who went to high school (lycée) in the United States.

What has always impressed me about this poem: it has you thinking in seconds flat.  (This expression explained in the English notes below.)  You know what it’s about, you know that it’s telling a very short story, you know that it’s not a happy story–and yet: you couldn’t really say what most of this poem actually means.  (I say that as a native speaker of the language in which the poem is written–and one with a literature degree, too.)  The lines

Jazz June.

…have been particularly controversial, allegedly leading it to have been banned by some districts (I haven’t been able to verify that, sorry)–to jazz can be interpreted as to fuck.  

We Real Cool
The Pool Players / Seven at the Golden Shovel
by Gwendolyn Brooks
We real cool. We
Left School. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

Scroll down past the video of Gwendolyn Brooks reading We real cool for the English notes.

English notes

in seconds flat: very quickly, very fast.  Some examples, courtesy of Twitter:






How I used it in the post: What has always impressed me about this poem: it has you thinking in seconds flat.

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