“We Real Cool”
By Gwendolyn Brooks
The Pool Players.
Seven at the Golden Shovel.
We real cool. We
Left School. We
Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We
Sing gin. We
Thin gin. We
Jazz June. We
(Reprinted from the Poetry Foundation)
Short poems are where most poets shine; they lack the clutter of too many details, so every letter and sound matters. The poem as a moment is truly poetic, and extraordinarily, Brooks was capable of writing pages-long poems like this. Born in 1916, she cleaved her own world out of words during a time where her blackness was an offense and her womanhood was a curse. She wrote prolifically of everything she saw: redlining, south side gangs, and the impotence of white charity. The medium of poetry highlighted commonly ignored realities in a way prose never could. When she uses a rhyme scheme in “The Ballad of Rudolph Reed,” it evokes memories of children nurseries, softness and safety. The poem’s bloody ending juxtaposes the commonality and comfort linked to rhymes with the dark, somber reality of being black in America. Brooks could show the world for what it was in a medium that when wielded correctly, demands readers to listen. She paved the way for other black and women poets to write their truths down.
Come celebrate and honor the existence of a powerful poet with the Poetry Foundation this Thursday. Poets (Tori Derricotte, Nikky Finney, Vievee Francis, Angela Jackson, and Patricia Smith will discuss Brooks’ impact at 10:00 a.m. in a roundtable discussion and at 6:00 p.m. will come together to read their own works that continue Brooks’ legacy of unapologetic truth.
Black Women as Giants: A Celebration of Gwendolyn Brooks
Thursday, May 4th 10 a.m. roundtable discussion and 6 p.m. reading
Lutkin Hall, Northwestern University
700 University Place