Friday, February 22, 2013

I Wish I'd Written This

Oppression 

By Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

Now dreams
Are not available
To the dreamers,
Nor songs
To the singers.
In some lands
Dark night
And cold steel
Prevail
But the dream
Will come back,
And the song
Break
Its jail.

Hughes's biography at PoemHunter.com describes him as 'an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist' and says, 'He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form jazz poetry. Hughes is best known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance. He famously wrote about the period that "Harlem was in vogue." '
I wouldn't know about that last, not being intimately acquainted with New York history;* but it seems to me he wrote of the oppression for which this poem is titled and of the longing for justice and freedom. He did so in simple, direct, powerful, often beautiful language. 

He was a master of rhyme, which he habitually used. Sometimes the rhymes seem obvious, sometimes not so much, but never forced or obtrusive. 
His poems were always sad, and sometimes bitter, angry or defiant — with reason, when you consider the subject matter of intolerance and suffering. This particular poem is sad like the rest, and the message unequivocal, yet it carries a strong assurance of hope. And although he had issues with the United States, his country did honour him by putting his face on a stamp, as you see!

At PoemHunter you will find 93 more of his poems. They tend to be short, so it's not an arduous read. And there are books galore at his Amazon page.

* I belatedly discover that Harlem Renaissance was a cultural movement, involving jazz poetry among other things.



Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).

20 comments:

  1. Thanks for featuring Langston Hughes, Rosemary. He is one of my long-time favorite poets. I really like the lines from the above poem:

    "But the dream
    Will come back,
    And the song
    Break
    Its jail."

    And indeed it has! I remember another line from a Hughes poem (name escapes me) that always stays with me: "Life ain't been no crystal stair."

    I always look forward to your articles each week, Rosemary. You provide such a variety of poets & their poetry for us to enjoy & learn from.

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    Replies
    1. Ah, there's no-one quite like him! :)

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    2. "Mother to Son" for the stair line . . .

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  2. Yes! So powerful so musical his is one of those poets that has crawled beneath my skin and added depth to my soul. Thank you Rosemary!

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  3. The man created magic with words. Powerful, powerful magic. I just left Susan's blog and commented about the importance and might of poetry as social commentary. Langston Hughes was a master of this. Thank you, Rosemary, for this inspiring share. Have a wonderful weekend.

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  4. I love the same lines as Mary. Love the strong message of hope. A wonderful poet!!!!! Thank you,Rosemary.

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  5. Thank you Rosemary, another name new to me.Now I shall have to try and found out what exactly is meant by Jazz poetry, other than being of that era.

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    Replies
    1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jazz_poetry

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    2. I've now added the link into my article. Thanks for the nudge. Also Google blues poetry and blues sonnet.

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  6. Langston Hughes has always been one of my favorites, especially love this poem, Oppression.

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    Replies
    1. All his poems have a strong message, as you would know. I think this is one of his most beautful.

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  7. I do love Lanston Hughes, and this poem you've featured is a favorite. Thanks for this wonderful article, Rosemary!

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  8. Interesting what you say about rhyme. I don't see any in "Oppression" though it seems like song because of the music in it, the meter, the repetition of word sounds. You pick a winner poet here--but you always do. I truly enjoy your column.

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  9. One of my all-time favourite poets - thanks so much for bringing him to the fore Rosemary - Mr.Hughes is a welcome addition to any page in my view ...

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  11. Thank you. These are always so informative and I rarely leave a comment. I do often search and google the poets mentioned. Thank you.

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