We Real Cool
by Gwendolyn Brooks
Perhaps we'd better let Brooks speak for herself here:
"I wrote ['We Real Cool'] because I was passing by a pool hall in my community one afternoon during school time, and I saw, therein, a little bunch of boys – I say here in this poem, seven – and they were shooting pool. But instead of asking myself, 'Why aren't they in school?' I asked myself, 'I wonder how they feel about themselves?' And just perhaps they might have considered themselves contemptuous of the establishment . . ." (source).
The speaker is trying to imagine what the boys think of their own lives. She is concerned with the community, but unlike some critics, we don't think her tone is harsh or judgmental. Rather, we think she's curious and wants to get inside the heads of these kids. Maybe she even thinks the boys have good reason to be contemptuous of the powers that be.
But what about those boys? What are their lives really like, apart from the momentary glimpse that we get through the door of "The Golden Shovel"? After all, they are speakers, too, or at least they are spoken for.