We /Jazz June

For Banned Books Week, the Academy of American Poets has a round-up of poems and books of poetry that have been banned at one point or another:

Poetry’s Place in the History of Banned Books

This list includes Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool,” because of the line “We / Jazz June.” According to Poets.org, some “…school districts banned the poem for the supposed sexual connotations of the word ‘jazz.'”

Brooks said that she meant that the boys in the poem were contesting summertime, as it is “something that is accepted by almost everybody.” and that instead of respecting and enjoying they “wanted instead to derange it, to scratch their hands in it as if it were a head of hair.”

Brooks went on to say that

“However, a space can be permitted for a sexual interpretation. Talking about different interpretations gives me a chance to say something I firmly believe—that poetry is for personal use. When you read a poem, you may not get out of it all that the poet put into it, but you are different from the poet. You’re different from everybody else who is going to read the poem, so you should take from it what you need. Use it personally.”

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