A Poem a Day: The Muse of Langston Hughes

About eight years ago, I watched an episode of Def Poetry where Javon Johnson recited his poem “Elementary” (see the clip here). As he spoke of being in the fifth grade and how he dreamt he would be the first black Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, he cried: “And I’ll be named after a Renaissance artist too / Only I’ll be Langston / The turtle with the pen.” My thought: What?

It took a few years before I realized he was talking about the Harlem Renaissance, not the Italian one, and that the turtle with the pen was Langston Hughes, poet, playwright, social activist, writer.

Here is today’s selection, from Hughes (below is a link to a recording of Hughes reading it himself):

“The Negro Speaks of Rivers”

I’ve known rivers: I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins. My soul has grown deep like the rivers. I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young. I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep. I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it. I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset. I’ve known rivers: Ancient, dusky rivers. My soul has grown deep like the rivers. – See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15722#sthash.6fQP7Omy.dpuf

I’ve known rivers:

I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

 

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.

I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.

I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.

I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

 

I’ve known rivers:

Ancient, dusky rivers.

 

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

 

(Recording: here)

Winold Reiss. "Langston Hughes." C. 1925

Winold Reiss. “Langston Hughes.” C. 1925

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Literature, National Poetry Month. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s