We Real Cool

Gwendolyn Brooks (b. 1917)

The Pool Players
Seven at the Golden Shovel.

We Real Cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike Straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

We real cool is an expression difficult to render in standard English. It means something like "We think we are the greatest, the best". The poem is in blank dialogue. One mark of this dialect is the omission of a form of be :"We are real cool". The term cool, however, is not restricted to black dialect. It is used in slang as a general term of approval things, people, situations, can all be "cool" , meaning roughly "all right". The use of real instead of really or very, is characteristic of informal English.

The following paraphrase admittedly inadequate will probably clarified the general meaning of the poem:

We dropped out of school.
We stayed out late at night (Lurk Late).
When we fight with knives we strike straight.
Our speech is earthy and racy (We Sing Sin).
We dilute gin with water.

One possible interpretation of "We Jazz June" is "We boast and brag to a girl friend".(June is a girl's name)

The Pool Players, Seven at the Golden Shovel

Seven boys are playing pool or brilliants at a pool hall called the Golden Shovel.

Theme: Racial Discrimination
Terminology: Alliteration
Strike and Straight: Unsecurity