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With the publication of his first book of poems, The Weary Blues, in 1926, Langston Hughes electrified readers and launched a renaissance in black writing in America.  The poems Hughes wrote celebrated the experience of invisible men and women: of slaves who "rushed the boots of Washington"; of musicians on Lenox Avenue; of the poor and the lovesick; of losers in "the raff With the publication of his first book of poems, The Weary Blues, in 1926, Langston Hughes electrified readers and launched a renaissance in black writing in America.  The poems Hughes wrote celebrated the experience of invisible men and women: of slaves who "rushed the boots of Washington"; of musicians on Lenox Avenue; of the poor and the lovesick; of losers in "the raffle of night."  They conveyed that experience in a voice that blended the spoken with the sung, that turned poetic lines into the phrases of jazz and blues, and that ripped through the curtain separating high from popular culture.  They spanned the range from the lyric to the polemic, ringing out "wonder and pain and terror-- and the marrow of the bone of life." The poems in this collection were chosen by Hughes himself shortly before his death in 1967 and represent work from his entire career, including "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," "The Weary Blues," "Still Here," "Song for a Dark Girl," "Montage of a Dream Deferred," and "Refugee in America."  It gives us a poet of extraordinary range, directness, and stylistic virtuosity. From the Trade Paperback edition.


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With the publication of his first book of poems, The Weary Blues, in 1926, Langston Hughes electrified readers and launched a renaissance in black writing in America.  The poems Hughes wrote celebrated the experience of invisible men and women: of slaves who "rushed the boots of Washington"; of musicians on Lenox Avenue; of the poor and the lovesick; of losers in "the raff With the publication of his first book of poems, The Weary Blues, in 1926, Langston Hughes electrified readers and launched a renaissance in black writing in America.  The poems Hughes wrote celebrated the experience of invisible men and women: of slaves who "rushed the boots of Washington"; of musicians on Lenox Avenue; of the poor and the lovesick; of losers in "the raffle of night."  They conveyed that experience in a voice that blended the spoken with the sung, that turned poetic lines into the phrases of jazz and blues, and that ripped through the curtain separating high from popular culture.  They spanned the range from the lyric to the polemic, ringing out "wonder and pain and terror-- and the marrow of the bone of life." The poems in this collection were chosen by Hughes himself shortly before his death in 1967 and represent work from his entire career, including "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," "The Weary Blues," "Still Here," "Song for a Dark Girl," "Montage of a Dream Deferred," and "Refugee in America."  It gives us a poet of extraordinary range, directness, and stylistic virtuosity. From the Trade Paperback edition.

30 review for Selected Poems of Langston Hughes (Vintage Classics)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Brina

    Langston Hughes was one of America's master writers of the twentieth century. For over forty years, he used his time to write, lecture, and promote better conditions for African Americans through his work. Most known for his poetry, Hughes also wrote a variety of works including song lyrics, a play, and an autobiography. Hughes chose the poems in Selected Poems shortly before his death in 1967 and included most of his well known work. Selected Poems is collection befitting of an American master. Langston Hughes was one of America's master writers of the twentieth century. For over forty years, he used his time to write, lecture, and promote better conditions for African Americans through his work. Most known for his poetry, Hughes also wrote a variety of works including song lyrics, a play, and an autobiography. Hughes chose the poems in Selected Poems shortly before his death in 1967 and included most of his well known work. Selected Poems is collection befitting of an American master. I remember reading "Mother to Son" when I was in school. We had to analyze it and then use the style to write our own poetry. The last line still stands out for me, "life ain't been no crystal stair." Hughes discusses how the African American experience has been full of hardships. In this particular poem he has a mother convey to her son to work extra hard so he has the opportunity to make something more of his life. In the same section, a family throws a celebration for Mary Lou Jackson because she received a diploma and can now get a job. Even if it is low level job, at least she will be earning money and assisting her family. Unfortunately, life was rarely a crystal stair for African Americans when Hughes wrote the majority of his poetry. A line that is still recognized today is "if you're white, you're all right...if you're black, Get back!" This was written when the Migration north and west was beginning. Hughes writes of the poor conditions of the south and how African Americans rode a freedom train out of this sometimes horrid existence. He goes on to describe the contrast of the bright lights in Harlem and Chicago to the fear of being lynched and killed just for being black in the South. Even though the Migration was just picking up steam at the time when he wrote, Hughes recognized the opportunity for freedom for his people and encouraged them to move in his writing. The plight of African Americans can best be summed up in Hughes' ending two sections. His montage of a dream deferred explains how a man can to keep dropping out of school to help his family and then was held back a grade when they moved north. Finally at age twenty he is ready to graduate and he feels too old to first be starting out in life. Hughes ends the collection with powerful words by quoting Jefferson, Lincoln, and Frederick Douglass. "Better to die free, than to live slaves," he motivates his people, and "Keep your hand on the plow! Hold on!" The American dream is for all people as long as they keep a positive outlook on life and make the best of the opportunities granted them. I am participating in an African American history month challenge this year, and I have both fiction and nonfiction books lined up to read. I am glad that I started the month with poetry written by a true American master. Hughes voice speaks of the raw emotions of what African Americans experienced and he used his voice as a platform to better their conditions. A powerful collection, I rate Langston Hughes' Selected Poems a full 5 bright stars.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Candi

    4.5 stars I’ve been interested in the writing of Langston Hughes for some time now. After reading Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration, which included brief snippets of his writing, I added both this selection of his poetry as well as one of his novels, Not Without Laughter, to my growing list of books to read someday. I even recall my eighth-grader at the time sharing a piece of Hughes’s poetry with me and decided if he thought it was worth poi 4.5 stars I’ve been interested in the writing of Langston Hughes for some time now. After reading Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration, which included brief snippets of his writing, I added both this selection of his poetry as well as one of his novels, Not Without Laughter, to my growing list of books to read someday. I even recall my eighth-grader at the time sharing a piece of Hughes’s poetry with me and decided if he thought it was worth pointing out, then by all means I must get my hands on a copy of one of his collections! Born in 1902 in Joplin, Missouri, Langston Hughes was one of the leading voices of the Harlem Renaissance. He was a prolific author, publishing numerous collections of poetry and short stories, novels, plays, non-fiction, and books for children. The influence of jazz and blues is evident in his writing, and his work is very accessible, written for the average person, not just for the scholarly individual. He wrote about working-class blacks in America and spoke to and about black people – their culture, their struggles, their joy, their music. As part of Black History Month in February, I decided I was well overdue to begin my exploration of this celebrated poet. This particular collection is one which Hughes himself selected from his various volumes of published poetry. The poems vary in length, with some being quite short with just three or four lines. I rarely read poetry, but the beauty and the rhythms of his poems appealed to me immensely. I think the perfect way to experience them would be to hear them read aloud. Of course, I can’t finish this review without including a couple of my favorite poems. Juke Box Love Song I could take the Harlem night and wrap around you, Take the neon lights and make a crown, Take the Lenox Avenue busses, Taxis, subways, And for your love song tone their rumble down. Take Harlem’s heartbeat, Make a drumbeat, Put it on a record, let it whirl, And while we listen to it play, Dance with you till day – Dance with you, my sweet brown Harlem girl. In Time of Silver Rain In time of silver rain The earth Puts forth new life again, Green grasses grow And flowers lift their heads, And over all the plain The wonder spreads Of life, Of life, Of life! In time of silver rain The butterflies Lift silken wings To catch a rainbow cry, And trees put forth New leaves to sing In joy beneath the sky As down the roadway Passing boys and girls Go singing, too, In time of silver rain When spring And life Are new.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Langston Hughes personally selected these poems for this collection, so it makes me feel closer to him. I've secretly wanted to live in the passed away time of this literary birth that took place during the Harlem Renaissance, so I was fascinated by the artwork of words. In fact I'm considering having a Harlem Renaissance Night gathering at my place and all I need is a saxophonist to commemorate Coleman Hawkins (because what instrument is as orgasmic as the sax?). Hughes sat around many musician Langston Hughes personally selected these poems for this collection, so it makes me feel closer to him. I've secretly wanted to live in the passed away time of this literary birth that took place during the Harlem Renaissance, so I was fascinated by the artwork of words. In fact I'm considering having a Harlem Renaissance Night gathering at my place and all I need is a saxophonist to commemorate Coleman Hawkins (because what instrument is as orgasmic as the sax?). Hughes sat around many musicians and blues singers and he took those forms of music and turned their notes into verse. "I tried to write poems like the songs they sang on Seventh Street…" - Langston Hughes There are too many sections to this timeless collection, too many poems, even a montage of poems, so where to start? I went for the ones you don't see often. Those who read my review of The Big Sea know that I love "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," but this time I'm going for something a bit different and sensual and sorrowed and simple and colorful. And Harlemesque. Harlem Night Song Come, Let us roam the night together Singing. I love you. Across The Harlem roof-tops Moon is shining. Night sky is blue. Stars are great drops Of golden dew Down the street A band is playing. I love you. Come, Let us roam the night together Singing. Harlem Renaissance Couple, from James Van Der Zee's historical collection In The Big Sea Hughes wrote about Gladys Bentley, the pianist who played the piano at a small club (since she wasn't allowed at the famous "Cotton Club" which sat in the middle of Harlem) "from ten in the evening until dawn, with scarcely a break between the notes, sliding from one song to another, with a powerful and continuous underbeat of jungle rhythm." He writes of people like Bentley in this collection, the starving artists denied their talent and denied jobs. He writes of the underdogs and unnoticed of the streets, the drunks, the prostitutes, the poor and homeless. He writes of a time when black people thrived in Harlem, but fought to survive in America. While on this thematic path of depression, poverty, racial tensions, love, suicide, sex, and freedom, I followed the song of Langston Hughes. I let the song guide me and I followed it to Harlem, I followed Harlem, with a glass of cognac and John Coltrane's In a Sentimental Mood sounding softly the midnight air. Jude Box Love Song I could take the Harlem night and wrap around you, Take the neon lights and make a crown, Take the Lenox Avenue buses, Taxis, subways, And for your love song tone their rumble down. Take Harlem's heartbeat, Make a drumbeat, Put it on record, let it whirl, And while we listen to it play, Dance with you til day- Dance with you, my sweet brown Harlem girl.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Mashing up poems written across his decades-long career as a writer, Langston Hughes's Selected Poems is a montage of fast-moving images that alternately capture the melancholy and the resilience of Black social life in America during the twentieth century's first half. The collection is divided into thirteen sections that familiarize readers with the vast scope of Hughes's interests: love, despair, racism, suicide, hope, music, community, and freedom are only a few of these poems' subjects. Com Mashing up poems written across his decades-long career as a writer, Langston Hughes's Selected Poems is a montage of fast-moving images that alternately capture the melancholy and the resilience of Black social life in America during the twentieth century's first half. The collection is divided into thirteen sections that familiarize readers with the vast scope of Hughes's interests: love, despair, racism, suicide, hope, music, community, and freedom are only a few of these poems' subjects. Compiled in 1967, Selected Poems to some extent glides over how politically radical so much of Hughes's work was, especially the anti-capitalist poetry he wrote during the 1930s. Despite that, the poems that are included in this volume are flawless, making the collection the perfect introduction to the writings of one of America's best poets.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    One afternoon in 1925, the white poet Vachel Lindsay was dining at the Wardman Park Hotel restaurant in Washington D.C. when a black busboy dropped three sheets of typed verse beside his plate. Lindsay read one of the poems, "The Weary Blues," and—impressed—called for the busboy, "Who wrote this?" he asked the young man. “I did," answered Langston Hughes. That evening, Lindsay reciting all three of Hughes’ poem at his own poetry reading, announcing his discovery of a “bonafide poet.” Of course—as One afternoon in 1925, the white poet Vachel Lindsay was dining at the Wardman Park Hotel restaurant in Washington D.C. when a black busboy dropped three sheets of typed verse beside his plate. Lindsay read one of the poems, "The Weary Blues," and—impressed—called for the busboy, "Who wrote this?" he asked the young man. “I did," answered Langston Hughes. That evening, Lindsay reciting all three of Hughes’ poem at his own poetry reading, announcing his discovery of a “bonafide poet.” Of course—as is true of most stories like this—the “discovery” of “the Poet Laureate of the Harlem Renaissance” was not as simple as that. Four years earlier, Hughes—just out of high school—published his now celebrated poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” in the NAACP’s magazine Crisis, winning the admiration of major figures in the black literary community like W.E.B. Dubois and James Weldon Johnson, and, at the time of his encounter with Lindsay, Hughes’ his first book—also entitled The Weary Blues--had already been accepted for publication by Alfred A. Knopf. Still, Lindsay—who today is often derided for his over-the-top performances and naive racism (particularly of his notorious poem “The Congo) did what he could to publicize the young poet, and his contribution should be remembered. (Not forgetting, though, that it was Hughes who put those three poems down next to his plate.) For years, I have carried around bright little memories of Langston Hughes in my head, all eight short poems I was taught and then taught in turn: “Dreams” (“...if dreams die,/ life is a broken-winged bird/that cannot fly.”), “Theme for English B” ("...will my page be colored that I write?/ Being me, it will not be white.”), “Let America Be America Again” (“The land that never has been yet—/ And yet must be—/ the land where every man is free.”), “Mother to Son” (‘...life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.”), “I, Too, Sing America” (I am the darker brother./ They send me to eat in the kitchen/ When company comes,/ But I laugh,/ And eat well,/ And grow strong.”), “The Weary Blues” (“And far into the night he crooned that tune./ The stars went out and so did the moon.), “Harlem (Dream Deferred)” (“What happens to a dream deferred?/ Does it dry up/ like a raisin in the sun?”), and of course “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” (“I’ve known rivers:/ Ancient, dusky rivers./ My soul has grown deep like the rivers.”) These gems, a central part of the African-American literary heritage, are an important part of the heritage of all Americans too. Unfortunately, reading the three-hundred page Selected Poems of Langston Hughes, I have been unable to find many poems equal to these eight. Almost all possess a lyrical musicality even at their bleakest (a quality that always eluded Hughes’ major influence Carl Sandburg), but few suggest the epic scope of Whitman, even in miniature—as “I, Too, Sing America” and “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” undeniably do. Then again, as poet and critic Randall Jarrell once said, “A poet is a man who manages, in a lifetime of standing out in thunderstorms, to be struck by lightning five or six times.” Langston Hughes, who managed to be struck—not five or six, but—at least eight times, is indisputably a poet. And the heritage of America is much richer because of it. I offer you here eight very small lightning strikes or near-strikes which I uncovered in the course of my re-reading of the first half of this book: AMERICAN HEARTBREAK I am the American heartbreak— Rock on which Freedom Stumps its toe— The great mistake That Jamestown Made long ago. HOPE Sometimes when I’m lonely, Don’t know why, Keep thinkin’ I won’t be lonely By and by. EVIL Looks like what drives me crazy Don’t have no effect on you— But I’m gonna keep on at it Till it drives you crazy, too. WINTER MOON How thin and sharp is the moon tonight How thin and sharp and ghostly white Is the slim curved crook of the moon to night. ARDELLA I would liken you To a night without stars Were it not for your eyes. I would liken you To a sleep without dreams Were it not for your songs. SUICIDE’S NOTE The calm, Cool face of the river Asked me for a kiss. DESIRE Deesire to us Was like a double death Swift dying Of our mingled breath, Evaporation Of an unknown strange perfume Between us quickly In a naked Room. ME AND THE MULE My old mule, He’s got a grin on his face. He’s been a mule so long He’s forgot about his race. I’m like that old mule— Black—and don’t give a damn! You got to take me Like I am.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brown Girl Reading

    I finished this collection and was thrilled to have discovered more of Hughes poetry. This poetry collection is separated into thirteen sections. The themes of each section are very different yet the poems fit perfectly in each one. The themes cover race, religion, love, society, and just plain living. The poems are lyrical and some only contain a few words. Life of Fine and After Hours are two of my favorite sections. For those avid poetry lovers definitely this is a must read. I4m so glad I fi I finished this collection and was thrilled to have discovered more of Hughes poetry. This poetry collection is separated into thirteen sections. The themes of each section are very different yet the poems fit perfectly in each one. The themes cover race, religion, love, society, and just plain living. The poems are lyrical and some only contain a few words. Life of Fine and After Hours are two of my favorite sections. For those avid poetry lovers definitely this is a must read. I4m so glad I finally own a book that contains Hughes poetry.

  7. 5 out of 5

    martin eden

    I'm always talking about Langston Hughes to my students and especially his poem "I, too sing America" but never read more than a few of his poems, and so I had a certain idea about his style and topics... What a surprise! I discovered other aspects about Langston Hughes that I didn't even suspect: his humour, his concern about women. I felt a range of emotions: sadness, happiness, shame, doubt,... I knew his fight for freedom and for equality, but I didn't know that he was a great storyteller! H I'm always talking about Langston Hughes to my students and especially his poem "I, too sing America" but never read more than a few of his poems, and so I had a certain idea about his style and topics... What a surprise! I discovered other aspects about Langston Hughes that I didn't even suspect: his humour, his concern about women. I felt a range of emotions: sadness, happiness, shame, doubt,... I knew his fight for freedom and for equality, but I didn't know that he was a great storyteller! He also reminds me of Walt Whitman in certain aspects. He is also a great musician: his poems must be read aloud or listened to! so the reader can appreciate his assonances, his tone and intonation, his rhythm, the sounds, his language.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Pink

    This collection was great. A few of the poems didn't work for me, but the vast majority were superb. Here's two that I particularly liked. I, Too. I, too, sing America. I am the darker brother. They send me to eat in the kitchen When company comes, But I laugh, And eat well, And grow strong. Tomorrow, I'll be at the table When company comes. Nobody'll dare Say to me, "Eat in the kitchen," Then. Besides, They'll see how beautiful I am And be ashamed— I, too, am America. Merry-Go-Round Where is the Jim Crow section O This collection was great. A few of the poems didn't work for me, but the vast majority were superb. Here's two that I particularly liked. I, Too. I, too, sing America. I am the darker brother. They send me to eat in the kitchen When company comes, But I laugh, And eat well, And grow strong. Tomorrow, I'll be at the table When company comes. Nobody'll dare Say to me, "Eat in the kitchen," Then. Besides, They'll see how beautiful I am And be ashamed— I, too, am America. Merry-Go-Round Where is the Jim Crow section On this merry-go-round, Mister, cause I want to ride? Down South where I come from White and colored Can't sit side by side. Down South on the train There's a Jim Crow car. On the bus we're put in the back— But there ain't no back To a merry-go-round! Where's the horse For a kid that's black?

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    The speaker catches fire looking at their faces. His words jump down to stand in listener's places. The majority of these appear to be but lyrics, slinking, slight. Maybe slivers. Reflective and jagged. I struggle again with questions unposed. I don’t imagine this collection will change many lives but there remains a necessary presence as we idly ignore our origins. I see the tropes today. Just below the haze and away from the anger. The speaker catches fire looking at their faces. His words jump down to stand in listener's places. The majority of these appear to be but lyrics, slinking, slight. Maybe slivers. Reflective and jagged. I struggle again with questions unposed. I don’t imagine this collection will change many lives but there remains a necessary presence as we idly ignore our origins. I see the tropes today. Just below the haze and away from the anger.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tiffani

    I don't read much poetry, but reading Sylvia Plath's Ariel last week inspired me to read a little more. And so I picked up a collection of Langston Hughes' poems. Langston Hughes is one of the few poets I have read before, at least a little. He is part of one of my favorite literary-artistic-cultural periods, the Harlem Renaissance. I absolutely loved this collection! I don't know much about Hughes but after reading this collection he seems like someone who would have been fun to hang out with — I don't read much poetry, but reading Sylvia Plath's Ariel last week inspired me to read a little more. And so I picked up a collection of Langston Hughes' poems. Langston Hughes is one of the few poets I have read before, at least a little. He is part of one of my favorite literary-artistic-cultural periods, the Harlem Renaissance. I absolutely loved this collection! I don't know much about Hughes but after reading this collection he seems like someone who would have been fun to hang out with —the kind of person who could come up with a funny poem on the spur of the moment if you were having a bad day. Next to the funny poems about men and women and not making the rent, there are these intense poems about being Black in America, injustice, and freedom. Hughes' poems span the emotional spectrum, from sadness, to anger and frustration, to hope and happiness. This is an amazing collection of poetry. I am amazed at how so much can be said in just a few lines. Thanks Langston, this was wonderful.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kazen

    I adored Hughes' work in high school and rereading this collection only cemented that love. There are poems about race, about everyday life before the civil rights era. There's also charming ditties that seem designed to get a smile out of you. I was surprised how many poems are familiar, how many lines stuck with me over twenty plus years. Come, Let us roam the night together Singing. There are others that have much more meaning now than they did in high school. Wake Tell all my mourners To mourn in I adored Hughes' work in high school and rereading this collection only cemented that love. There are poems about race, about everyday life before the civil rights era. There's also charming ditties that seem designed to get a smile out of you. I was surprised how many poems are familiar, how many lines stuck with me over twenty plus years. Come, Let us roam the night together Singing. There are others that have much more meaning now than they did in high school. Wake Tell all my mourners To mourn in red— Cause there ain't no sense In my bein' dead Needless to say Hughes remains my favorite poet of all time.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    I am a huge lover of Langston Hughes' poetry. Despite the fact that I am a white woman who will never know the depths of racism African Americans had to endure in this country, I honestly feel like Hughes helped all those who weren't going through this plight understand and be sympathetic to the cause. His poetry makes me want to be a better person. It inspires tolerance and understanding. This book was a fabulous collection of Hughes' work. There are so many great poems that I don't know how I w I am a huge lover of Langston Hughes' poetry. Despite the fact that I am a white woman who will never know the depths of racism African Americans had to endure in this country, I honestly feel like Hughes helped all those who weren't going through this plight understand and be sympathetic to the cause. His poetry makes me want to be a better person. It inspires tolerance and understanding. This book was a fabulous collection of Hughes' work. There are so many great poems that I don't know how I would ever be able to cover them all with a group of students. This will definitely be a collection I will acquire for my classroom library.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tea

    Note to self: I quite enjoyed driving through Langston Hughes' life. He colored sad things beautiful. And for that, and my love for important historical black literature, as well as being mulatto, I label 5 stars! I quarreled with this a little but found I was not uncertain of its merit because of his writing, but rather it was me judging some of the misogynistic poe!s in the beginning of this collection. However, he writes from many perspectives and those behaviors were understandable outcomes Note to self: I quite enjoyed driving through Langston Hughes' life. He colored sad things beautiful. And for that, and my love for important historical black literature, as well as being mulatto, I label 5 stars! I quarreled with this a little but found I was not uncertain of its merit because of his writing, but rather it was me judging some of the misogynistic poe!s in the beginning of this collection. However, he writes from many perspectives and those behaviors were understandable outcomes and important documentations of history considering the black strife being endured. So, because I enjoyed many poems but disliked some, it's not the same 5 stars as is the 5 stars of my beloved Claude Mckay. But still important. I read this because he was Maya Angelou's favorite. I could really feel as if I was living his life. It's impressive how his words let you peer into many peoples' minds, souls, hearts, and pain. And live it. Even though poetry was reflected in many perspectives, I could tell it was still a major part of his shared story. That's good poetry and I love it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tahereh

    Remembering university classes and the first ones that never die... Dream Hold fast to dreams For if dreams die life is a broken-winged bird That cannot fly. Hold fast to the dreams For when dreams go life is a barren field Frozen with snow.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Larry Bassett

    Selected Poems of Langston Hughes James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, socialist, homosexual and columnist. He began writing poetry when he was a young teenager. His newspaper column ran for twenty years in the 1940s and 1950s. Hughes uses the rhythms of African American music, particularly blues and jazz in his poetry. Later in his life Langston Hughes was called the "Poet Laureate of the Negro Race," a title Selected Poems of Langston Hughes James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, socialist, homosexual and columnist. He began writing poetry when he was a young teenager. His newspaper column ran for twenty years in the 1940s and 1950s. Hughes uses the rhythms of African American music, particularly blues and jazz in his poetry. Later in his life Langston Hughes was called the "Poet Laureate of the Negro Race," a title he enjoyed and encouraged. Hughes meant to represent the race in his writing and he was, perhaps, the most original of all African American poets. (Source: http://www.kansasheritage.org/crossin... ) Hughes’ poetry will sing to you. He was named the Class Poet in his eighth grade class. Hughes said that he was one of two blacks in the class, but everybody (but not him, he reported) knew that Negroes (the polite term in those days that Hughes used) had rhythm! As an adult, some of his moves were to escape racial discrimination. Hughes attended Columbia University for one year but left because of discrimination. His first book of poetry, The Weary Blues, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1926. He was twenty-four and had that one year of college. Hughes, who claimed Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Carl Sandburg, and Walt Whitman as his primary influences, is particularly known for his insightful, colorful portrayals of black life in America from the twenties through the sixties. He wrote novels, short stories and plays, as well as poetry, and is also known for his engagement with the world of jazz and the influence it had on his writing, as in "Montage of a Dream Deferred." His life and work were enormously important in shaping the artistic contributions of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. Unlike other notable black poets of the period—Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, and Countee Cullen—Hughes refused to differentiate between his personal experience and the common experience of black America. He wanted to tell the stories of his people in ways that reflected their actual culture, including both their suffering and their love of music, laughter, and language itself. In addition to leaving us a large body of poetic work, Hughes wrote eleven plays and countless works of prose, including the well-known “Simple” books: Simple Speaks His Mind, Simple Stakes a Claim, Simple Takes a Wife, and Simple's Uncle Sam. He edited the anthologies The Poetry of the Negro and The Book of Negro Folklore, wrote an acclaimed autobiography (The Big Sea) and co-wrote the play Mule Bone with Zora Neale Hurston. Source: http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/83 Some academics and biographers today believe that Hughes was homosexual and included homosexual codes in many of his poems, similar in manner to Walt Whitman. Hughes has cited him as an influence on his poetry. Hughes's story "Blessed Assurance" deals with a father's anger over his son's effeminacy and "queerness". To retain the respect and support of black churches and organizations and avoid exacerbating his precarious financial situation, Hughes remained closeted. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Langston... The poetry in Selected Poems of Langston Hughes is almost all very short, some as short as two or three lines, hardly any more than a page. His poems are moments, glimpses, feelings, vignettes, riffs. He has gospel and god damn. He has humor but can surprise you with serious, something hard to deliver in just a few lines. Vagabonds We are the desperate Who do not care, The hungry Who have nowhere To eat. No place to sleep, The tearless Who cannot Weep. Quite a few Hughes poems could be Tweets! 144, a gross of characters that catch a loose idea. Ennui It’s such a Bore Being always Poor. Sea Calm How still, How strangely still The water is today. It is not good For water To be so still that way. Little Lyric (Of Great Importance) I wish the rent Was heaven sent. Langston sings the blues. Down and Out Baby, if you love me Help me when I’m down and out. If you love me, baby, Help me when I’m down and out, I’m a po’ gal Nobody gives a damn about. The credit man’s done took ma clothes And rent time’s nearly here. I’d like to buy a straightenin’ comb, An’ I need a dime fo’ beer. I need a dime fo’ beer. Langston laughs. Heaven Heaven is The place where Happiness is Everywhere. Animals And birds sing – As does Everything. To each stone, “How-do-you-do?” Stone answers back, “Well! And you?” Hughes doesn’t use big words or arcane allusions to make his points. Ballad of the Girl Whose Name Is Mud A girl with all that raising, It’s hard to understand How she could get in trouble With a no-good man. The guy she gave her all to Dropped her with a thud. Now amongst decent people, Dorothy’s name is mud. But nobody’s seen her shed a tear, Nor seen her hang her head. Ain’t even heard her murmur, Lord, I wish I was dead! No! the hussy’s telling everybody – Just as though it was no sin – That if she had a chance She’d do it agin’! Hughes is not all fun. Not at all. He wrote of the terror of his day. Ku Klux They took me out To some lonesome place. They said, “Do you believe In the great white race?” I said, “Mister, To tell you the truth, I’d believe in anything If you’d just turn me loose.” The white man said, “Boy, Can it be You’re a-standin’ there A-sassin’ me?” They hit me in the head And knocked me down. And then they kicked me On the ground. A klansman said, “Nigger, Look me in the face – And tell me you believe in The great white race.” Hughes tells of the future. He calls for justice. Democracy Democracy will not come Today, this year Not ever Through compromise and fear. I have as much right As the other fellow has To stand On my two feet And own the land. I tire so of hearing people say, Let things take their course. Tomorrow is another day. I do not need my freedom when I’m dead. I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread. Freedom Is a strong seed Planted In a great need. I live here, too. I want freedom Just as you. I enjoyed reading Langston Hughes. I knew just what he was saying even when I did not share his experiences. I shared his dreams.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Esraa Diab

    I was introduced to Langston Hughes earlier this year and truly enjoyed the selection of poems I have read by him. I wanted to read and know more about him whenever I have the chance. This collection was rich of amazing poems that told stories about Harlem, about his race's struggles, about oppression, discrimination and slavery, about his feeling towards his white father and black mother, in addition to number of poems about love, life, death and religion. The collection seems to have covered ev I was introduced to Langston Hughes earlier this year and truly enjoyed the selection of poems I have read by him. I wanted to read and know more about him whenever I have the chance. This collection was rich of amazing poems that told stories about Harlem, about his race's struggles, about oppression, discrimination and slavery, about his feeling towards his white father and black mother, in addition to number of poems about love, life, death and religion. The collection seems to have covered everything Langston went through or has been interested in, which makes you feel closer to the poet as you read. You can easily conclude his ideas and point of view about life. I personally loved the poems that described the lives of the blacks and denounced the whites supremacy. They were all my favorite poems; I think I loved every poem in the last section. All in all I enjoyed the collection, and it encouraged me to read more poetry in general. One of the things that I really liked about Hughes is his style. It is full of images, he uses easy language and smooth rhythm that make you feel and live the stories he is telling effortlessly. 4 stars! A list of my favorite poems. Madam and Her Might-Have-Been ** Ballad of the Man who's Gone Who But the Lord ** Blue Bayou Share-Croppers ** Ku Klux Cross ** Children's Rhymes Necessity ** New Yorkers Ballad of the Landlord ** Drunkard Theme for English B ** Night Funeral in Harlem Blues at Dawn ** Neighbor Silver ** I, Too Freedom Train ** In explanation of Our Times Democracy ** Consider Me The Negro Mother ** Freedom's Plow Cora ** Final curve Homecoming ** Mama and Daughter Ennui ** Little Lyric 50-50 ** Desert End ** Suicide's Note Late Last Night ** Reverie on the Harlem River Early Evening Quarrel ** Water-Front Streets A black Pierrot ** Genius Child Tell Me ** Aunt Sue's Stories Fire ** As I Grew Older Let America Be America Again ** The Negro Speaks of Rivers

  17. 4 out of 5

    Emma Getz

    I admit that I haven’t studied poetry in an academic setting enough yet to critique it structurally, but I do read my fair share of it, and this collection includes some of my absolute favorite poetry I have ever read. I love that Hughes is a vernacular poet but has a beautiful style of verse and rhythm at the same time. I love the way he portrays things like religion, music, and love. Every single poem is so genuine and truly speaks. Langston Hughes is no doubt one of America’s most talented an I admit that I haven’t studied poetry in an academic setting enough yet to critique it structurally, but I do read my fair share of it, and this collection includes some of my absolute favorite poetry I have ever read. I love that Hughes is a vernacular poet but has a beautiful style of verse and rhythm at the same time. I love the way he portrays things like religion, music, and love. Every single poem is so genuine and truly speaks. Langston Hughes is no doubt one of America’s most talented and important poets and should be read by absolutely everyone.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Bradley Hankins

    When I was in school I used to hate poetry but as I’ve grown I’ve found a great appreciation for the skill it takes to become a poet. Hughes’s poems are moving, political and inspirational. I loved how they ranged from emotions of depression to ones of anger and strife. My favorite poem from this selection would have to be “Miss Blues’es Child” I’ve felt that feeling too often.

  19. 5 out of 5

    KV Taylor

    So I bought this just tonight and figured I'd go through it at a leisurely pace, rolling the words around in my head, you know. Yeah, not so much. Ate it in a few hours, and I'm going back through now to revisit and order my thoughts. There's not a lot I can say that hasn't been said -- this is beautiful, lyrical, heartwrenching, clever, funny, brutal stuff by turns (and sometimes all at once), and I can't get enough. What a commentary that even the ones written about social issues some 90 years So I bought this just tonight and figured I'd go through it at a leisurely pace, rolling the words around in my head, you know. Yeah, not so much. Ate it in a few hours, and I'm going back through now to revisit and order my thoughts. There's not a lot I can say that hasn't been said -- this is beautiful, lyrical, heartwrenching, clever, funny, brutal stuff by turns (and sometimes all at once), and I can't get enough. What a commentary that even the ones written about social issues some 90 years ago and are still so very relevant, too. Why was this not required reading in both my lit and history courses?

  20. 5 out of 5

    Yuki Shimmyo

    Langston Hughes' poems of the 1920s, 40s, and 50s are as fresh and relevant as ever. This collection skips over his "revolutionary poetry" of the 1930s. Langston Hughes' poems of the 1920s, 40s, and 50s are as fresh and relevant as ever. This collection skips over his "revolutionary poetry" of the 1930s.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kayla ☕️📚

    Lyrical poetry that is harsh yet beautiful... so glad I had the chance to read this collection of poems

  22. 4 out of 5

    Pam

    Wow! Provocative poetry that really made me better understand and think about what it meant/means to be black in the US.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Iacovetti

    "Every time I read Langston Hughes I am amazed all over again by his genuine gifts–and depressed that he has done so little with them. A real discussion of his work demands more space than I have here, but this book contains a great deal which a more disciplined poet would have thrown into the waste-basket (almost all of the last section, for example)" – Baldwin, "Sermons and Blues" (1959) AFRO-AMERICAN FRAGMENT So long, So far away Is Africa. Not even memories alive Save those that history books crea "Every time I read Langston Hughes I am amazed all over again by his genuine gifts–and depressed that he has done so little with them. A real discussion of his work demands more space than I have here, but this book contains a great deal which a more disciplined poet would have thrown into the waste-basket (almost all of the last section, for example)" – Baldwin, "Sermons and Blues" (1959) AFRO-AMERICAN FRAGMENT So long, So far away Is Africa. Not even memories alive Save those that history books create, Save those that songs Beat back into the blood– Beat out of blood with words sad-sung In strange un-Negro tongue– So long, So far away Is Africa. Subdued and time-lost Are the drums–and yet Through some vast mist of race There comes this song I do not understand, This song of atavistic land, Of bitter yearnings lost Without a place– So long, So far away Is Africa's Dark face. THE NEGRO SPEAKS OF RIVERS I've known rivers: I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins. My soul has grown deep like the rivers. I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young. I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep. I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it. I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset. I've known rivers: Ancient, dusky rivers. My soul has grown deep like the rivers. SHOUT Listen to yo' prophets, Little Jesus! Listen to yo' saints! LITANY Gather up In the arms of your pity The sick, the depraved, The desperate, the tired, All the scum Of our weary city. Gather up In the arms of your pity. Gather up In the arms of your love– Those who expect No love from above. AS BEFITS A MAN I don’t mind dying— But I’d hate to die all alone! I want a dozen pretty women To holler, cry, and moan. I don’t mind dying But I want my funeral to be fine: A row of long tall mamas Fainting, Fanning, and crying. I want a fish-tail hearse And sixteen fish-tail cars, A big brass band And a whole truck load of flowers. When they let me down, Down into the clay, I want the women to holler: Please don’t take him away! Ow-ooo-oo-o! Please don’t take daddy away! YOUNG SAILOR He carries His own strength And his own laughter, His own today And his own hereafter— This strong young sailor Of the wide seas. What is money for? To spend, he says. And wine? To drink. And women? To love. And today? For joy. And the green sea For strength, And the brown land For laughter. And nothing hereafter. BORDER LINE I used to wonder About living and dying– I think the difference lies Between tears and crying. I used to wonder About here and there– I think the distance Is nowhere. SUICIDE'S NOTE The calm, Cool face of the river Asked me for a kiss. PERSONAL In an envelope marked: Personal God addressed me a letter. In an envelope marked: Personal I have given my answer. OLD WALT Old Walt Whitman Went finding and seeking, Finding less than sought Seeking more than found, Every detail minding Of the seeking or the finding. Pleasured equally In seeking as in finding, Each detail minding, Old Walt went seeking And finding. FIRED Awake all night with loving The bright day caught me Unawares—asleep. "Late to work again," The boss man said. "You're fired!" So I went on back to bed— And dreamed the sweetest dream With Caledonia's arm Beneath my head. FINAL CURVE When you turn the corner And run into yourself Then you know that you have turned All the corners that are left. 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. That’s American. 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. DEFERRED This year, maybe, do you think I can graduate? I’m already two years late. Dropped out six months when I was seven, a year when I was eleven, then got put back when we came North, To get through high at twenty’s kind of late - But maybe this year I can graduate. Maybe now I can have that white enamel stove I dreamed about when we first fell in love eighteen years ago. But you know, rooming and everything then kids, cold-water flat and all that. But now my daughter’s married And my boy’s most grown - quit school to work - and when we’re moving there ain’t no stove - Maybe I can buy that white enamel stove! Me, I always did want to study French. It don’t make sense - I’ll never go to France, but night schools teach French. Now at last I’ve got a job where I get off at five, in time to wash and dress, so, s’il vous plait, I’ll study French! Someday, I’m gonna buy two new suits at once! All I want is one more bottle of gin. All I want is to see my furniture paid for. All I want is a wife who will work with me and not against me. Say, baby, could you see your way clear? Heaven, heaven, is my home! This world I’ll leave behind When I set my feet in glory I’ll have a throne for mine! I want to pass the civil service. I want a television set. You know, as old as I am, I ain’t never owned a decent radio yet? I’d like to take up Bach. Montage of a dream deferred. Buddy, have you heard? IN EXPLANATION OF OUR TIMES The folks with no titles in front of their names all over the world are raring up and talking back to the folks called Mister. You say you thought everybody was called Mister? No, son, not everybody. In Dixie, often they won’t call Negroes Mister. In China before what happened They had no intention of calling coolies Mister. Dixie to Singapore, Cape Town to Hong Kong the Misters won’t call lots of other folks Mister. They call them, Hey George! Here, Sallie! Listen, Coolie! Hurry up, Boy! And things like that. George Sallie Coolie Boy gets tired sometimes. So all over the world today folks with not even Mister in front of their names are raring up and talking back to those called Mister. From Harlem past Hong Kong talking back. Shut up, says Gerald L.K. Smith. Shut up, says the Governor of South Carolina. Shut up, says the Governor of Singapore. Shut up, says Strydom. Hell no shut up! say the people with no titles in front of their names. Hell no! It’s time to talk back now! History says it’s time, And the radio, too, foggy with propaganda that says a mouthful and don’t mean half it says— but is true anyhow: LIBERTY! FREEDOM! DEMOCRACY! True anyhow no matter how many Liars use those words. The people with no titles in front of their names hear these words and shout them back at the Misters, Lords, Generals, Viceroys, Governors of South Carolina, Gerald L. K. Strydoms. Shut up, people! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up, George! Shut up, Sallie! Shut up, Coolie! Shut up, Indian! Shut up, Boy! George Sallie Coolie Indian Boy black brown yellow bent down working earning riches for the whole world with no title in front of name just man woman tired says: No shut up! Hell no shut up! So naturally there’s trouble in these our times because of people with no titles in front of their names. FREEDOM'S PLOW (excerpts) The people do not always understand each other. But there is, somewhere there, Always the trying to understand, And the trying to say, "You are a man. Together we are building our land." America! Land created in common, Dream nourished in common, Keep your hand on the plow! Hold on! If the house is not yet finished, Don't be discouraged, builder! If the fight is not yet won, Don't be weary, soldier! The plan and the pattern is here, Woven from the beginning Into the warp and woof of America: ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL. NO MAN IS GOOD ENOUGH TO GOVERN ANOTHER WITHOUT THAT OTHER'S CONSENT. BETTER DIE FREE, THAN LIVE SLAVES. Who said those things? Americans! Who owns those words? America! ------------ A long time ago, An enslaved people heading toward freedom Made up a song: Keep Your Hand On The Plow! Hold On! That plow plowed a new furrow Across the field of history. Into that furrow the freedom seed was dropped. From that seed a tree grew, is growing, will ever grow. That tree is for everybody, For all America, for all the world. May its branches spread and its shelter grow Until all races and all peoples know its shade. KEEP YOUR HAND ON THE PLOW! HOLD ON!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jenn Meadows

    I can't believe I've gone this long without reading a collection of Langston Hughes poems. For this year's Black History Month, I decided it was about time that I picked this up and emersed myself in Hughes' brilliance for a day. I really appreciated this collection because it was hand-selected by Hughes himself. I felt like I got a taste of his work that makes me want to revisit all of his books of poems in the near future. My favorite poems were the ones that addressed racial inequality and th I can't believe I've gone this long without reading a collection of Langston Hughes poems. For this year's Black History Month, I decided it was about time that I picked this up and emersed myself in Hughes' brilliance for a day. I really appreciated this collection because it was hand-selected by Hughes himself. I felt like I got a taste of his work that makes me want to revisit all of his books of poems in the near future. My favorite poems were the ones that addressed racial inequality and the need for racial justice. I also greatly appreciated that Hughes writes poetry that is accessible to the average person. You do not need to have a degree in English or poetry to engage with his work. It truly is accessible and relatable.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Illiterate

    Hughes uses loose rhythmic free verse to capture Black vernacular, experience, hope.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kerry

    Before I picked up the Selected Poems of Langston Hughes, I was familiar with some of his more famous poems like "Harlem (Dreams Deferred)", "A Negro Speaks of Rivers", "The Weary Blues", and "I, Too"but I didn’t know much more than that. I was really interested in reading more of his poetry and digging deeper into his work and I thought this collection would be a good place to start. Now that I have finished the book, I have to say that my favorite thing about Langston Hughes’ work is the shee Before I picked up the Selected Poems of Langston Hughes, I was familiar with some of his more famous poems like "Harlem (Dreams Deferred)", "A Negro Speaks of Rivers", "The Weary Blues", and "I, Too"but I didn’t know much more than that. I was really interested in reading more of his poetry and digging deeper into his work and I thought this collection would be a good place to start. Now that I have finished the book, I have to say that my favorite thing about Langston Hughes’ work is the sheer musicality of it. I’ve read a lot about how influenced he was by Jazz and the Blues and I can definitely see that, both in the rhythm of the poems and in the many references Hughes makes to that kind of music. But I really loved the gospel feel to poems like “Feet O’ Jesus,” “Tambourines,” and “Prayer Meeting.” Most of them seemed to fall in the section of the book made up of selections from Hughes’ book of poetry, Feet of Jesus and I enjoyed them so much that I am seriously thinking of picking up the entire book to see if there are other poems in a similar style that I could check out. As for the rest of the collection, with the exception of a couple of poems that were a bit on the disturbing side (notably "To Artina and "Genius Child"), I really enjoyed reading this book, particularly poems like "Ardella", Midnight Dancer, and Stars, which were so lovely and lyrical. And when all is said and done, I have really enjoyed getting to know Langston Hughes better and I am looking forward to discovering more of him and his work.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Karen Ashmore

    Great collection of poetry that includes obscure poems and more well known ones such as “Weary Blues”, “I, Too, America” and “A Dream Deferred”. Topics ranged from Harlem, living as a Black man in the Jim Crow South, slavery, police brutality, and racism. One of my new favorites is “Freedom Train”. Ironically, he also wrote several poems from a Black woman’s perspective decrying her mistreatment by Black men. All the poems are still timely today.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dee's Reading Zone

    BROTHERS by Langston Hughes ''We're related - you and I, You from the West Indies, I from Kentucky. Kinsmen- you and I, You from Africa, I from the U.S.A. Brothers- you and I'' simple but poignant... that was the ease of reading Langston Hughes' poetry and reflect on his words... simple but true in every way BROTHERS by Langston Hughes ''We're related - you and I, You from the West Indies, I from Kentucky. Kinsmen- you and I, You from Africa, I from the U.S.A. Brothers- you and I'' simple but poignant... that was the ease of reading Langston Hughes' poetry and reflect on his words... simple but true in every way

  29. 4 out of 5

    Erika B. (SOS BOOKS)

    Love Love is a wild wonder And stars that sing, Rocks that burst asunder And mountains that take wing. John Henry with his hammer Makes a little spark, That little spark is love Dying in the dark. TOTALLY dig this poetry collection! Langston Hughes captured jazz and blues perfectly!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Shari (colourmeread)

    This collection of poems by Langston Hughes made for a good read on a quiet evening. Some poems were entertaining, enchanting, dark, amusing, and sad. The poems were categorized by subject and while I liked Hughes’ distinct voice, I didn’t care for some of them. I did like how Selected Poems provided a good variety of his work, giving me a good idea of his style of writing.

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