Poetry in Motion – Langston Hughes

Poetry in Motion – Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes was a poet that lived from 1902-1967. He was a very distinguished poet of the Harlem Renaissance, the great out pouring of african-american art. The poetry of Langston Huges is very different, yet it held the reader’s attention. As a poet, he defines his role as a poet. Hughes has a very unconventional style, subjectcontent, and language, though he gives his intended messages in the same way as the poets of the past have done.

Langston Hughes created most of his works in or about Harlem, New York. His poetry was almost musical. It had a distinct rhythm and a flow to the words contained in the lines. He spoke of the issues and life of the black race and its plight “They send me to eat in the kitchen When company comes But I laughAnd grow strong.” (Lines 3-8). The blues was such a prominent part of his life that he dropped out of Columbia University after two semesters to pursue the night life of Harlem.

Though at times Langston was a radical writer and addressed the issues with force, he also expressed great pride in being black and having a culture such as it. He was very proud and his poetry reflected that. He is known as a figure of hope in the black race’s eyes, his poem inspired pride and strngth in most african americans who also struggle with the plight of racism and segregation.

He was very influential, famed authors such as Lorraine Hansberry derived the title to her award winning play A Raisin in the Sun (1959), from one of Hughes poems. He in turn was very influenced by Walt Whitman, and honored him in one of his poems.

“Old Walt Whitman

Went finding and seeking

Finding less than sought

Seeking more then found” (Lines 1 – 4)

Hughes was a very talented man and his talent in writing was and still is sought heavily. During WW2, he wrote jingles and phrases to promote he sales of bonds and to support confidence.

Langston’s poetry, though he showed pride and anger, he could also be very optimistic about it all. The segregation, the hatred, and the negativity surrounding that era he was in:

But someday somebody’ll

Stand up and talk about me,

And write about me-

Black and beautiful- (lines 12-15)

There is optimism in this stanza and it shows the black man’s strength in times of struggle and pain. His poetry also shows that, although we have endured much in our years as a people, we are still beautiful and mysterious people. He displays the mysteriousness of the black people in his poem, Negro:

I am a negro

Black as the night is black

Black as the depths of Africa (lines 1-3)

This poem shows that he has depths about as deep and fathomless as Africa itself. His poetry “echoes the voices of ordinary African Americans and the rythms of their music.” (The Bedford Introduction to Literature 1101) The blues can be dected very easily in his poems, and throughout most of his works, each poem had a rhythm, and almost every title had a blues theme to it. From The Weary Blues, to Dream Boogie, it reflects on how he drew from an oral tradition of working people and their own common speech

Langston Hughes lived in an entirely different time, but he still causes a stir in the world of poetry. The themes of racial pride and personal dignity run rampan in all his works. He has taken the conventional stylings of a poem, and changed it into something that all people can enjoy, a way for these authors to express themselves without being limited as to what to write about. Hughes was allowed to “think out of the box.” Now, because of this, poetry is no longer two dimensional and flat. It now has a shape.

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