Black Poetry Writing Month: Write a Poem for the Cool Kids

We Real Cool


We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

—Gwendolyn Brooks, from The Bean Eaters (1960)

Continuing with our Gwendolyn Brooks inspiring weekend, we’re looking at her shortest and most popular poem, “We Real Cool.” With very few words, Brooks illustrates an explicit scene in a pool hall where seven presumed young men hangout, playing hooky and “acting grown.”


There are many interpretations for this poem; it could about youth rebellion, the speaker’s condemnation and disapproval of the young men’s actions, etc. However, I’d like to think these “pool players” are establishing their identities in an unfriendly world. The repetition of “We” at the end of each line is a declaration that we are here, and we will not be ignored. I don’t see the statement “We real cool” as sarcastic but as a realization that not conforming to society’s expectation for them is ideal; it makes them authentic, “cool.” Even the last line has a positive tone, similar to the YOLO phrase kids chant today. You only live once, so make the best of it and do what makes you happy with no apologies.

For today’s BlaPoWriMo prompt, write a poem for the cool kids. Why is it important for us to listen to them? Using Brooks’ poem as inspiration, paint a scene in very few words that illustrates an group of kids making their mark on the world and establishing their individuality.


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