A poem a day keeps the blues away

Today is World Poetry Day. I was not aware there was a world poetry day but I should have known seeing as there is a day for everything now. I am not sure when poetry day was first celebrated, but it is a quite a big deal. Some cafes are accepting poems as payments today.

In celebration of this beautiful day, I have decided to put the spotlight on one of my favourite poets- Langston Hughes.

Langston Hughes (1902-1967) was a mixed race American man. As is the norm in America, especially back then, being biracial means you’re black. Though he was of mixed heritage, he identified as Black and this shows in his poems. The themes of race, segregation, struggle, discrimination, black beauty and black pride are prominent and pervasive in his work. He was a prominent figure of the Harlem Renaissance. He wrote about the unglamorous parts of Black life, something that was not taken very kindly by Black people. Hughes discusses this criticism in his autobiography:

“…Others called the book a disgrace to the race, a return to the dialect tradition, and a parading of all our racial defects before the public. . . . The Negro critics and many of the intellectuals were very sensitive about their race in books. (And still are.) In anything that white people were likely to read, they wanted to put their best foot forward, their politely polished and cultural foot—and only that foot.”

You can read more about him and read some of his poetry on the Poetry Foundation website.  There are more of his poems on the Poem Hunter website.

I first came across Mr. Hughes on twitter through a tribute twitter account and I was immediately drawn to his poems. Here are some of my favourites.

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.

Dreams

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,
Slowly,
Between me and my dream.
Rose until it touched the sky—
The wall.
Shadow.
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!

Cross

My old man’s a white old man
And my old mother’s black.
If ever I cursed my white old man
I take my curses back.
If ever I cursed my black old mother
And wished she were in hell,
I’m sorry for that evil wish
And now I wish her well
My old man died in a fine big house.
My ma died in a shack.
I wonder where I’m going to die,
Being neither white nor black?

Democracy
Democracy will not come

Today, this year
Nor 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 continue to dream

I take my dreams and make of them a bronze vase
and a round fountain with a beautiful statue in its center.
And a song with a broken heart and I ask you:
Do you understand my dreams?
Sometimes you say you do,
And sometimes you say you don’t.
Either way it doesn’t matter.
I continue to dream.

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?

 Genius Child

This is a song for the genius child.
Sing it softly, for the song is wild.
Sing it softly as ever you can –
Lest the song get out of hand.

Nobody loves a genius child.

Can you love an eagle,
Tame or wild?
Can you love an eagle,
Wild or tame?
Can you love a monster
Of frightening name?

Nobody loves a genius child.

Kill him – and let his soul run wild.

 

Ballad of the sinner

I went down the road

Dressed to Kill

Straight down the road that leads to hell

 Mother warned me 

Warned me true

Father warned me

and sister too

 But I was bold

Headstrong and wild

I did not act like my mother’s child

 She begged me, please

Stay on the right track

But I was drinking licker,

Jitterbugging back

Going down the road,

All dressed to kill,

The road that leads

Right straight to hell

Pray for me mama!

Suicide note

The calm,
Cool face of the river
Asked me for a kiss.

Happy World Poetry Day!

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