Books People & Spaces 13 - 15 Years16 and up9 - 12 Years

Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes

Dreams

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

 

Or The Final Curve

When you turn the corner
And you run into yourself
Then you know that you have turned
All the corners that are left

Or this last stanza from the poem Freedom’s Plow Poem

A long time ago,
An enslaved people heading toward freedom
Made up a song:
Keep Your Hand On The Plow! Hold On!
The plow plowed a new furrow
Across the field of history.
Into that furrow the freedom seed was dropped.
From that seed a tree grew, is growing, will ever grow.
That tree is for everybody,
For all America, for all the world.
May its branches spread and shelter grow
Until all races and all peoples know its shade.
KEEP YOUR HAND ON THE PLOW! HOLD ON!

All of these beautiful words filled with wisdom and hope belong to Langston Huges, an African-American poet.

Huges endured much discrimination as a child. His grandmother told him stories and filled him with a sense of pride for his ancestry. Langston had a lingering sadness about the racial prejudice he endured. He then started to read books and in them he found solace. The prosaicness of real life suffering was made bearable by the thoughts in books.

I was unhappy for a long time, and very lonesome, living with my grandmother. Then it was that books began to happen to me, and I began to believe in nothing but books and the wonderful world in books — where if people suffered, they suffered in beautiful language, not in monosyllables, as we did in Kansas.

Huges started writing poetry in the 8th grade. He went on to write poems, plays, musicals, operas and autobiographies. A lot of what he wrote was for children. Some of his works for children include:

Popo and Fifina: Children of Haiti, The Dream Keeper and Other Poems, The First Book of Negroes, The First Book of Rhythms, Famous Negro Music Makers and Don’t You Turn Back.

A fine compilation of Langston Huges poetry, his life and times can be found in the series  Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes. Winner of the 2007  Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, this collection has been compiled by editors David Roessel and Arnold Rampersad. The award winning illustrations are by Benny Andrews. 

From: Poetry for young people: Langston Hughes

The Negro Speaks of Rivers, My People, Dreams, Words Like Freedom and Harlem are some of the poems in the anthology.

Langston’s clear voice speaks of the many injustices that people have to face, simply on account of their dark skin. His poems while pointing out the discrimination are also filled with hope for a time when things will change as is evidenced in his poem ‘I too’.

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.

Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.

Huges lived between 1902 and 1967. He is credited with being an innovator of the new form, jazz poetry. The music, rhythm and beat so entwined in Afro-American culture finds resonance in his work. He drew from music (jazz) and dance while he wrote. Listen to Huges speak about and recite The Negro Speaks of Rivers.

Huges devoted his life to depicting the life of Afro-Americans in America.He is a tremendously important poet for children the world over to read. His work will help them understand the voice of the discriminated and the plight of being treated differently on account of the darkness of their skin and the importance of not carrying this or any other form of discrimination as they go forward.

Langston Huges with children image credit:http://www.cityfarmer.info/

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