The Inspiring Rhyme of Gwendolyn Brooks

The Inspiring Rhyme of Gwendolyn Brooks

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In “We Real Cool,” by Gwendolyn Brooks, one can almost visualize a cool cat snapping his fingers to the beat, while she is reading this hip poem. Her powerful poem uses only a few descriptive words to conjure up a gang of rebellious teens. Brooks employs a modern approach to the English language and her choice of slang creates a powerful jazz mood. All of the lines are very short and the sound on each stop really pops. Brooks uses a few rhymes to craft an effective sound and image of the life she perceives. With these devices she manages to take full control of her rhyme and cultivates a morally inspiring poem.
Brooks’ selection of single syllable words helps set the rhythm of a jazz mood. The monosyllable words provide a rhythmical tool for generating a snappy beat to her tale. Her repetition of rhyming words close together adds unity to the poem. By placing the one syllable words close together: “cool / school” (1-2) and “sin / gin” (5-6), it emphases each word. The feelings and imagery are clear in this poem. The rhyming lines in her verse contain only three words, and it keeps the poem’s rhythm moving. The short verse makes it easy to remember. The short lines speed it up, but the sound on each stop really stands out. Only the subtitle is longer, which Brooks utilizes to encompass the setting. Her careful use of short words keeps the beat and describes what the boys are doing, like leaving school, or staying out late. These simple
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words represent the gang’s lack of language skills. This symbolizes uneducated boys talking. She does it with such vivid verse and ethnic slang that it gives this poem a unique style.
Brooks employs more than one rhyming device. She exercises end rhyme in the poem. Brooks’ words rhyme at the end of each sentence. Often in rhymes, the sentence ends with the rhyming word, but not here. The poem’s sentences end in the middle of the line, because Brooks chose to create a metrical pause or caesura. The repetition of “We” at the end, helps to keep the audience focus on the gang. Brooks applies internal rhyme before the end. “We / Sing in. We / Thin gin” (5-6) shows internal rhyme. The gang is proud and boasting about their lives. This conjures up visions of the boys bad choices, but it also helps you see the connection in the lines.

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Brooks uses true rhyme where the sounds are almost identical. Words “Sin” (5) and “gin,” (6) from couplet three are an example of true rhyme. Here, the vowels and the constants both repeat to show how the words unite. Furthermore the ending couplet contains weak rhyme. The words “June” (7) and “soon” (8) do not have the same vowels, but both words have the same ending sound. The letter “e” is silent in “June” (7) and ends on the constant sound like “soon” (8).
The use of end rhyme also creates a rhyme scheme. Brooks’ pattern is a traditional rhyme scheme. The scheme is a simple aa/bb/cc/ on the first three couplets. She changes the beat on the last line to stop everything in the poem, expressing death. The poem’s four stanzas are made up of eight short lines. The eight lines contain four small stanzas and two-line couplets with the same meter until the end. Most couplets rhyme at the end of the line but one of these couplets also rhymes in the middle. Again the word “We” plays with the form of the line and hangs on after the pause, except on the last line. “We / Die soon” (8) is the last meter and brings the beat to an end. Here the last line produces the writer’s climax. The boys are dead. Without an education the teens will not last long, according to Brooks.
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Brooks’ selection of words shows her skillful talent at mastering rhyme. The choice of words she uses creates an exceptional image of rebel teens. The rhyming words are close together, and it makes the image much stronger. We need to understand the language she is using before we can really appreciate it. The slang people spoke back then is not the same slang we have today. Words meanings often change over the years, but her poem is still valid after all these years. This poem uses a complexity of rhyme and demonstrates a skillful selection of words. This poem sends a serious message to those who blow off school but it does not sound demanding. Brooks wants her poems to be heard, not just read.


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