Digging in the crates for the real Langston Hughes rare classics



Have you ever been so inundated with someone or something that you just become desensitized to them or it? You move on to the less obvious because everywhere you turn, there they are?

I do... Even more reason why I think repetition is important, and I am grateful to all of my teachers (both ancient and modern) who remind me to repeat.

While preparing a lesson on figurative language, I decided to consult The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. I've had it for years, I used to use it all the time. I went from reading some of it for leisure, to using poems in the classroom with my students. I found Langston to be diverse: he covered many important subjects in ways that were light and sometimes deeply intense. I liked that about him.

Over the years, I've come across so many other writers who spoke to me as well. Some were flashier, more raw in language, or just newer. Over time, the big, hardback book just lost its luster. It had a space amongst my budding book collection and remained there. Until today.

Today, I'm feeling Langston (again)! I'm reading through these pages and I'm thinking: "Wow, this man is awesome!" Some of his most obscure, lesser known poems are much more classic than the ones reprinted textbooks. Langston was a writer. Seems like he spent most of his life writing and it shows. Of course he wrote short stories and plays too. And there are even a few recordings of him reading his poems, which are really wonderful to hear as well.

Mainly though, I am confronted with the reality of how watered down his image has become. I guess like any other innovative character of mind to discuss liberation, he has been separated from his own self and marketed as someone else. I don't know enough about his politics to say that he was a radical per se, but I can surmise from the plethora of poems he wrote on the subject of freedom that he was very interested in the matter of Blackness: Africa and freedom, even. I can really appreciate those reflections, I think he was exploring these ideas in ways that still resonate today.

More than that, though, he was talented. While witty and direct, he was also lighthearted and dreamy at times. He wrote well.

Langston isn't even close to being corny, but the marketing of his writings has left him in the shadows of "A Dream Deferred." Returning to the source itself, I find him much more refreshing. I guess its kind of like digging in the crates for rare music. Hughes' famous poems are like hit singles from epic artists -- not even close to being the point.

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