We Real Cool
It consists of four verses of two rhyming lines each. The first word in most lines is "we". The next line describes something that "we" do, such as play pool or drop out of school. Brooks has said that the "we"s are meant to be said softly, as though the protagonists in the poem are questioning the validity of their existence. The poem has been featured on broadsides, and is widely studied in literature classes and re-printed in literature textbooks. It also contains references to the seven deadly sins.
The last lines of the poem, "We / Die soon," indicate the climax, which comes as a surprise to the boasts that have been made previously. It also suggests a moment of self-awareness about the choices that the players have made.
The band The Jazz June takes their name from this poem as well.
- "An Interview with Gwendolyn Brooks" in Contemporary Literature 11:1 (Winter 1970). Available on-line: "On We Real Cool".