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The Poetry in Harlem Renaissance

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Many assume that Blues and Jazz were the only musical influences that impacted the Harlem Renaissance. Indeed, with the pursuit for heritage and identity, many aspects of African culture influenced Renaissance poetry musically. However, focus also needs to be placed on more controversial topics, such as religion and gender, as poets challenged oppression.
When discussing the poetry of the Harlem Renaissance, due to the strength of their relationship, one must look at Blues and Jazz. Many viewed this genre as a voice for the black communities and as “the New Negro poets expressed a deep pride in being Black” (Smith, 1983, p. 37) it is easy to see how this influenced their poetry. The main theme of Blues were the troubles of life and finding an escape, and this underlying dissatisfaction was incorporated into poetry as a response to many of the injustices present. For example, a clear example of this is Langston Hughes’ Homesick Blues which uses many of the key techniques from Blues songs, such as short lines to create urgency. The poem discusses the effect of prejudices and injustices on the black communities, especially when it comes to finding a home and an identity. There is a subtle, irregular rhyme scheme from words such as “sun… done” (Ramazani, 1994, pp. 152-3) which strengthens the influence. The dull, full rhymes create a sense of dissatisfaction and boredom, as if the speaker has given up on life. Hughes similarly uses many colloquialism and phonetics, which were common in Blues songs, such as “De Railroad Bridge/ a sad song in de air” (Ramazani, 1994, pp. 152-3), which furthers racial pride and identity, present in Blues and Harlem Renaissance poetry. However, perhaps the strongest example of how the Blues genre infl...

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