“We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.”

Gwendolyn Brooks. “We Real Cool”

This is the poem that taught me about free verse, although it’s not really free verse, is it? It has meter and rhyme, both internal from the main body and external from the repeated pronoun at the end of each line. The freedom of the verse comes from the the choppy staccato of the text – it is almost a chant. The uneasy perching of the pronoun at each line’s end gives the whole work a feeling of headlong rashness and unsteadiness, especially placed atop the unbalanced final statement. The striking and abrupt disappearance of the pronoun at the end, representing perhaps the loss of life and of self, leads the reader to return to the beginning for an air of futile inevitability. A whole tableau is established in eight brilliant lines.