Langston Hughes


The other night I finished reading The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. I'd read his Selected Poems several times, so it was a treat to finally absorb his entire poetic output. It seems to me that Hughes did a good job of choosing works for his Selected Poems, because I'd say there are relatively few poems that I feel I was really missing out on until now. However, reading all of his poems has certainly given me a deeper understanding of his art.

Hughes is probably the best-known poet of the Harlem Renaissance. I often liken him to a poetic version of Duke Ellington, though I'd say that Duke is more original, more elemental, more titanic. Still I like and appreciate Hughes. His poems have a rhythm that is quite American, and often deeply influenced by jazz or blues (indeed he more a number of poems in blues form). Reading the collected poems has reinforced my judgment of long-time favorites such as "Young Sailor", "Still Here", "I, Too", "In Time of Silver Rain", "Dream Dust", "Old Walt", "Freedom", "Fulfillment", "Midnight Dancer", and the ever-incredible "Freedom's Plow". In addition, I've found a number of poems that have newly struck my fancy: "Alabama Earth", "The Bitter River", "Black Seed", "Desire", "Dream Boogie: Variation", "Dream Variations", "Easy Boogie" (a celebration of the bass!), "God", "Gods", "Helen Keller", "The Negro Speaks of Rivers", "Pennsylvania Station", "Song", and "Trumpet Player".

Now I feel the urge to explore more Harlem Renaissance writers...

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