An interview with Gwendolyn Brooks by George Stavros in English.Illinois:
Q. How about the seven pool players in the poem “We Real Cool”?
A. They have no pretensions to any glamor. They are supposedly dropouts, or at least they're in the poolroom when they should possibly be in school, since they're probably young enough, or at least those I saw were when I looked in a poolroom, and they. . . . First of all, let me tell you how that's supposed to be said, because there's a reason why I set it out as I did. These are people who are essentially saying, “Kilroy is here. We are.” But they're a little uncertain of the strength of their identity. [Reads:]
We real cool. We
Left school. We
Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We
Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We
Jazz June. We
The “We”—you're supposed to stop after the “We” and think about their validity, and of course there's no way for you to tell whether it should be said softly or not, I suppose, but I say it rather softly because I want to represent their basic uncertainty, which they don't bother to question every day, of course.
Q. Are you saying that the form of this poem, then, was determined by the colloquial rhythm you were trying to catch?
A. No, determined by my feeling about these boys, these young men.
More here. (Note: One post throughout February will be dedicated to Black History Month.)