Langston Hughes' Poetry

810 Words2 Pages

Langston Hughes (1902-1967) absorbed America. In doing so, he wrote about many issues critical to his time period, including The Renaissance, The Depression, World War II, the civil rights movement, the Black Power movement, Jazz, Blues, and Spirituality. Just as Hughes absorbed America, America absorbed the black poet in just about the only way its mindset allowed it to: by absorbing a black writer with all of the patronizing self-consciousness that that entails. The contradiction of being both black and American was a great one for Hughes. Although this disparity was troublesome, his situation as such granted him an almost begged status; due to his place as a “black American” poet, his work was all the more accessible. Hughes’ black experience was sensationalized. Using his “black experience” as a façade, however, Hughes was able to obscure his own torments and insecurities regarding his ambiguous sexuality, his parents and their relationship, and his status as a public figure. One of Hughes’ most distinctive styles stemmed from urban nightclubs in which black artists performed for a white audience. Hughes’ great appreciation for the black urban music style is obvious throughout the various rhythms, patterns, and unpredictable improvisations that mirror the chaotic and pulsating tempo of city life. Jazz and black oral influences, as well as social dichotomy are pervasive elements throughout Hughes’ poetry. Like nightclub entertainers, Hughes used the progression of Afro-American music (jazz, ragtime, swing, blues, and be-bop) in order to show the growth and change of a community in conflict, as is shown in “Subway Rush Hour.” This poem, brimming with sudden and broken rhythms, is characteristic of jazz riffs popular in the 1920s. In “Subway Rush Hour,” Hughes uses the musicality of his poetry and incorporates it with an important social statement regarding the relation status between blacks and whites. Equality is an ever-present theme throughout Hughes’ poetry. In “Theme for English B,” Hughes presents us with musical and effective language, an intense social statement, and a very important sense of equality, shocking us into reality. Although “Theme for English B” was published in 1949, it has many of the characteristics that his earlier works from the Harlem Renaissance possessed. The rhythmic rhyming adds to the musicality of the poem. The language is simple, yet effective in making a very important social statement. An especially intense aura of American separatism is present throughout the poem. A sense of egalitarianism is also present throughout the poem: the instructor is just as much student as the student is professor, young and old each have much to offer the other, and black and white partake of each other.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how hughes absorbed america, writing about issues critical to his time period, including the renaissance, the depression, world war ii, the civil rights movement, black power, jazz, blues, and spirituality.
  • Analyzes how hughes' contradiction of being both black and american was a great one for him. his "black experience" was sensationalized, but he obscured his own torments and insecurities regarding his ambiguous sexuality,
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