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
Of the Poem:
I first read this poem about a year ago- it was written by Gwendolyn Brooks in 1959 and published the next year. It’s about the loose and potentially reckless lifestyle of a group of boys that Gwendolyn apparently knew.
The poem speaks of these teens hangin’ late at a pool hall drinkin’ gin and shootin’ stick. They’ve long dropped out of school and are most likely up to no good (‘we sing sin’).
The driving point of the poem is no doubt the last enjambed line: we die soon … that is, there’s a looming consequence that attends the lifestyle these teens have appropriated. This seems to be a warning from Brooks.
The poem, being deceptively simple, is riddled with amazing structure and poetic devices:
-the stanzas are couplets
-the end-rhymes fall on the second to the last word
-each stanza is enjambed (i.e. the first line continues into the following line)
-and there are alliterations everywhere (e.g. lurk late, sing sin, jazz June)
There are other aspects that have me curious- for example: ‘strike straight’ in line 4 could also indicate fighting rather than just playing pool; ‘sing sin’ in line 6 is an excellent metaphor for vulgar language.
Anyhow, thought I’d share. Happy date of birth Mrs. Brooks …