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Famous Poets:

  bullet   Maya Angelou
  bullet   Matthew Arnold
  bullet   Elizabeth Bishop
  bullet   William Blake
  bullet   Anne Bradstreet
  bullet   The Brontė Sisters
  bullet   Robert Browning
  bullet   Lord Byron
  bullet   Lewis Carroll
  bullet   E. E. Cummings
  bullet   Samuel Daniel
  bullet   Emily Dickinson
  bullet   T. S. Eliot
  bullet   Ralph Waldo Emerson
  bullet   Eugene Field
  bullet   Robert Frost
  bullet   Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  bullet   Ernest Hemingway
  bullet   Langston Hughes
  bullet   James Joyce
  bullet   John Keats
  bullet   Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  bullet   Sylvia Plath
  bullet   Edgar Allan Poe
  bullet   William Shakespeare
  bullet   Percy Bysshe Shelley
  bullet   Robert Louis Stevenson
  bullet   Alfred, Lord Tennyson
  bullet   Dylan Thomas
  bullet   Walt Whitman
  bullet   William Wordsworth
  bullet   William Butler Yeats

Langston Hughes

Born: February 1, 1902 // Died: May 22, 1967

Langston Hughes James Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri on February 1, 1902. Hughes started writing poetry in the eight grade. His father paid tuition for his son to attend Columbia University on the grounds he studied engineering. Hughes's father did not feel he could make a living at writing. Langston dropped out of the engineering program, but continued writing poetry. His first published poem was one of his most famous, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers", and appeared in Brownie's Book. Later, his poems, short plays, essays, and short stories appeared in many publications such as the NAACP Crisis Magazine, Opportunity Magazine and more.

One of Hughes's favorite pastimes was sitting in clubs listening to blues, jazz, and writing poetry. Through these experiences a new rhythm emerged in his writing, and a series of poems such as "The Weary Blues" were penned.

Langston Hughes was a prolific writer. In the forty-odd years between his first book in 1926 and his death in 1967, he devoted his life to writing and lecturing. He authored sixteen books of poems, two novels, three collections of short stories, four volumes of "editorial" and "documentary" fiction, twenty plays, children's poetry, musicals and operas, three autobiographies, a dozen radio and television scripts and dozens of magazine articles. In addition, he edited seven anthologies.

His collections of poetry include:
  • The Weary Blues (1926)
  • The Negro Mother
  • Dramatic Recitations (1931)
  • The Dream Keeper (1932)
  • Shakespeare In Harlem (1942)
  • Fields of Wonder (1947)
  • One Way Ticket (1947)
  • The First Book of Jazz (1955)
  • Tambourines To Glory (1958)
  • Selected Poems (1959)
  • The Best of Simple (1961)

Langston Hughes died of cancer on May 22, 1967. The New York City Preservation Commission has given his residence at 20 East 127th Street in Harlem, New York, landmark status. The block of East 127th Street was renamed "Langston Hughes Place".

*Information gathered from an article by Andrew P. Jackson (Sekou Molefi Baako)*

  Langston Hughes's Poetry: (click on a title to read a poem)
  The Negro Speaks of Rivers   Dream Variations   Suicide's Note
  April Rain Song   The Weary Blues   Merry-Go-Round
  As I Grew Older   Ennui   Dream Deferred
  The Dream Keeper   Children's Rhymes   I, Too

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 rivers
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.

Dream Variations
To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
Dark like me--
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance!  Whirl!  Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening...
A tall, slim tree...
Night coming tenderly
Black like me.

Suicide's Note
The calm,
Cool face of the river
Asked me for a kiss.

April Rain Song
Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
And I love the rain.

The Weary Blues
Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,
Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,
I heard a Negro play.
Down on Lenox Avenue the other night
By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light
He did a lazy sway ....
He did a lazy sway ....
To the tune o' those Weary Blues.
With his ebony hands on each ivory key
He made that poor piano moan with melody.
O Blues!
Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool
He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool.
Sweet Blues!
Coming from a black man's soul.
O Blues!
In a deep song voice with a melancholy tone
I heard that Negro sing, that old piano moan--
"Ain't got nobody in all this world,
Ain't got nobody but ma self.
I's gwine to quit ma frownin'
And put ma troubles on the shelf."

Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor.
He played a few chords then he sang some more--
"I got the Weary Blues
And I can't be satisfied.
Got the Weary Blues
And can't be satisfied--
I ain't happy no mo'
And I wish that I had died."
And far into the night he crooned that tune.
The stars went out and so did the moon.
The singer stopped playing and went to bed
While the Weary Blues echoed through his head.
He slept like a rock or a man that's dead.

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?

As I Grew Older
It was a long time ago.
I have almost forgotten my dream.
But it was there then,
In front of me,
Bright like a sun--
My dream.
And then the wall rose,
Rose slowly,
Between me and my dream.
Rose until it touched the sky--
The wall.
I am black.
I lie down in the shadow.
No longer the light of my dream before me,
Above me.
Only the thick wall.
Only the shadow.
My hands!
My dark hands!
Break through the wall!
Find my dream!
Help me to shatter this darkness,
To smash this night,
To break this shadow
Into a thousand lights of sun,
Into a thousand whirling dreams
Of sun!

It's such a
Being always

Dream Deferred
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

The Dream Keeper
Bring me all of your dreams,
You dreamer,
Bring me all your
Heart melodies
That I may wrap them
In a blue cloud-cloth
Away from the too-rough fingers
Of the world.

Children's Rhymes
By what sends
the white kids
I ain't sent:
I know I can't
be President.
What don't bug
them white kids
sure bugs me:
We know everybody
ain't free.

Lies written down
for white folks
ain't for us a-tall:
Liberty And Justice--
Huh!--For All?

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.

I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--

I, too, am America.

The Weary Blues (New York: A. A. Knopf, 1926). PS H874w Victoria College Library. First Publication Date: Crisis (June 1921): 71, 143, 210.

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes. Used with permission.

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