Advice and insight from a professional poet.


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How can I be cool like a poet?
— A. H.


You’ve got to be kidding me. Most poets I know would not be classified as cool (except maybe Kim Addonizio — she’s pretty chic). But, you asked, so let’s see what we can discover from Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool”:

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

If you want to be cool like a poet, do the opposite of what the plural speaker does in this poem. First and foremost, stay in school. In fact, stay in school as long as you can. Take out student loans that you will be paying off for the rest of your life to do so. Second, get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night, which means going to bed around 9:30 because, if you want to be cool like a poet, you’ll be getting up at least three times to see if they’ve posted a new poem on Don’t play pool — at least don’t be any good at it. Don’t sin. Stay away from gin because a) the good stuff is expensive, and b) the cheap stuff goes right to your head and will likely result in a showing of that bad tattoo you got when you turned 18. And lastly, don’t die young. Take every precaution out there so that you can live as long as possible. If that means wearing latex gloves that you change at least three times a day and carrying your own plasticwear when dining out, so be it. Wear complete face cover and a protective smock at all times in case anyone launches infectious disease-bearing bacteria into your membranes. And always, always recite to yourself obscure incantations to ward off curses. Then you’ll be cool, like a poet. • 29 November 2010