Today’s Thoughtful Thursday presents a cool poetry combo: “We Real Cool”, a classic from Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000), our first national Black Poet Laureate, and a poem inspired by this classic, “Because it looked hotter that way” by Camille T.Dungy (1972-), an award winning poet who teaches at San Francisco State University.
Dungy’s poem is an acrostic which uses each word of “We Real Cool” as the last word of each line of her poem. She explained on Poets.org how writing in a form used by a poet she admires connects her to the community of all writers. “Every time I write a sonnet, for instance, I am in the company of other poets who have written their own sonnets. This make the solitary art of writing far less lonely.” How cool is it to read these poems together? Share with your children, especially your high schoolers, and enjoy.
We Real Cool
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
Because it looked hotter that way
we let our hair down. It wasn’t so much that we
worried about what people thought or about keeping it real
but that we knew this was our moment. We knew we’d blow our cool
sooner or later. Probably sooner. Probably even before we
got too far out of Westmont High and had kids of our own who left
home wearing clothes we didn’t think belonged in school.
Like Mrs. C. whose nearly unrecognizably pretty senior photo we
passed every day on the way to Gym, we’d get old. Or like Mr. Lurk
who told us all the time how it’s never too late
to throw a Hail Mary like he did his junior year and how we
could win everything for the team and hear the band strike
up a tune so the cheer squad could sing our name, too. Straight
out of a Hallmark movie, Mr. Lurk’s hero turned teacher story. We
had heard it a million times. Sometimes he’d ask us to sing
with him, T-O-N-Y-L-U-R-K Tony Tony Lurk Lurk Lurk. Sin
ironia, con sentimiento, por favor, and then we
would get back to our Spanish lessons, opening our thin
textbooks, until the bell rang and we went on to the cotton gin
in History. Really, this had nothing to do with being cool. We
only wanted to have a moment to ourselves, a moment before Jazz
Band and after Gym when we could look in the mirror and like it. June
and Tiffany and Janet all told me I looked pretty. We
took turns saying nice things, though we might just as likely say, Die
and go to hell. Beauty or hell. No difference. The bell would ring soon.
With thanks to “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks
Camille T. Dungy