Critically acclaimed short poems include "We Real Cool" by Gwendolyn Brooks and "Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio" by James Wright. Both poems are considered substantive, thought-provoking works, and are often published in anthologies of significant American literature.
"We Real Cool," commonly studied in college literature classes, is an excellent example of how powerful emotions can be rendered from a minimal number of words. Brooks describes a pool hall scene in which seven young men, likely juvenile delinquents, reminisce about their "cool" status and tendency to engage in various forms of debauchery. The speaker of the poem closes the piece on a somber note, suggesting that he knows a life of sin eventually ends with an early grave.
"Autumn Begins in Martin's Ferry, Ohio," another short poem that touches on the nature of a dead-end, cyclical existence, examines the need for heroism in a small town. The local high school football team provides a way for the blue collar dads of Martin's Ferry to escape their nagging wives for a few hours and live vicariously through their sons, but the speaker of the poem subtly implies that glory fades, and that the boys on the field are in for a similar future.