American Poet, Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes was a 20th century African American poet. He lived from 1902 – 1967 and is considered part of the Harlem Renaissance of Black writers, visual artists and musicians who flourished in the 1920s and 30s in and around Harlem in New York. I first discovered Langston Hughes poetry during the mid 1990s in a children’s department of a public library. I believe it was his collection of poems in the book “The Dream Keeper and Other Poems.”
To be honest Langston Hughes poetry bowled me over. His poems are direct and speak to the regular person. I’m realizing now from some research that his poetry was not readily accepted when he first wrote, and he was considered, I guess you might say, “low brow.” I didn’t know that and it’s a shame he was the subject of much criticism. His poetic voice and tone (in prose terms, the tact that he had) didn’t mince words, however, so perhaps his being offensive didn’t matter to him as long as it communicated how he truely felt.
Here are some poems of his. Honestly there are quite a few of his that I like. It was hard to choose.
Mother to Son
Well, son, I’ll tell you:
life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
and boards torn up,
and places with no carpet on the floor-
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
and reachin’ landin’s,
and turnin’ corners,
and sometimes goin’ in the dark
where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now-
for I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
and life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
(written in 1922)
The Dream Keeper
Bring me all of your dreams,
Bring me all your
That I may wrap them
In a blue cloud-cloth
Away from the too-rough fingers
Of the world.
(published in 1932)
Theme for English B
The instructor said,
Go home and write
a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you—
Then, it will be true.
I wonder if it’s that simple?
I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.
I went to school there, then Durham, then here
to this college on the hill above Harlem.
I am the only colored student in my class.
The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem
through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,
Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,
the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator
up to my room, sit down, and write this page:
It’s not easy to know what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I’m what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:
hear you, hear me—we two—you, me, talk on this page.
(I hear New York too.) Me—who?
Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
I like a pipe for a Christmas present,
or records—Bessie, bop, or Bach.
I guess being colored doesn’t make me NOT like
the same things other folks like who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I write?
Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white—
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that’s true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me—
although you’re older—and white—
and somewhat more free.
This is my page for English B
(written in 1951)