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Langston Hughes Poems and Plays

Langston Hughes: Poems and Plays

The period known as the Harlem Renaissance began in 1925 when black writers, poets and artists came together to create a movement that represented the urban sophistication of black people in America. This topic suggestion will explore the poems and plays of Langston Hughes, one of the major contributors to the Harlem Renaissance. By providing an analysis of elected poems and a one-act play, this discussion will demonstrate that Langston Hughes was not only an important black writer who provided a voice for the urban black experience, but an important American literary figure, as well.

In his 1926 poem The Weary Blues, Hughes uses a variety of literary devices to create a soulful tale that is both musical and descriptive in its rendition of black music and culture. The following are the main characteristics of the poem The Weary Blues:

  • The poem consists of thirty-six lines
  • The Weary Blues uses both internal and end rhymes to give the poem a distinctive musical quality.
  • The poem itself is describes a "drowsy syncopated tune" that the poem's narrator heard a Negro play on Lenox Avenue in Harlem.
  • The poem documents the scene in language that is both poetic and colloquial.

For example, there are alliterative phrases such as "pale dull pallor," repetition of lines such as "He did a lazy sway/He did a lazy sway" and the internal rhymes like "poor piano moan." At the same time, Hughes uses the slang language of blacks in Harlem during this period, as in the words to the blues song that are contained within the poem:

"Ain't got nobody in all this world,

Ain't got nobody but ma salf.

I's gwine to quit ma frownin'

And put ma troubles on the shelf"

Hughes informs the reader that these Blues were "coming from a black man's soul," which communicates that this blues singer was sincere in both his lonely desperation and ability to stop frowning and put his troubles on the shelf. This ability to communicate the language and feelings of black people during the Harlem Renaissance was evident in many of Hughes poems. For example, "Esthete in Harlem," a seven-line poem that begins with a single word, "Strange," followed by "That in this nigger place/ I should meet life face to face". The use of this language by a black poet changed its meaning by reducing it to a cold observation. The poem is also ironic in that its a-a-b-b-c-c rhyme scheme makes it appear almost like a children's poem, while its refers to the dynamic life the poet found on "this vile street."

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