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Langston Hughes

In: English and Literature

Submitted By PhilW12
Words 1157
Pages 5
Phillip Woods
Sandra Simonds
ENG102
April 26 2016 Langston Hughes and The Weary Blues
Langston Hughes was recognized as a significant literary figure during the 1920s, a period known as the "Harlem Renaissance" because of the number of emerging black writers. After graduating from high school, Hughes went to Mexico to visit his father, in hopes to convince his father that he should pay for his college education at Columbia University in New York City. On his way to Mexico on the train, while thinking about his past and his future, Hughes wrote the famous poem, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers." After arriving in Mexico, the tension between Hughes and his father was strong. Hughes wanted to be a writer; his father wanted him to be an engineer. After Hughes sent some of his poetry to what was known as the “Brownies” Book and “Crisis” magazines, it was accepted. his father was impressed enough to agree to pay for a year at Columbia University. It was there at Columbia University were he begin releasing more poems that he had written. Hughes embraced crafting blues music into his poetry because it expressed the worries of the common man in a simple and direct manner. Blues songs feature heavy repetition, and singers often seem to be laughing and crying at the same time. One of his best works was the poem “The Weary Blues” which came in first place in a section of a literary contest in an Opportunity magazine published in 1925. The title itself gives an example on how Hughes wanted to give the reader an indication on how he crafted his fine arts. This poem became one of the most well known poems and helped launched his career. In the poem “The Weary Blues” The speaker describes hearing an African American musician playing a "drowsy tune" while swaying back and forth on Lenox Avenue a few nights ago under the light of a gas lamp. The musician rock back and forth to the Weary Blues, touching his playing his piano and making it "moan with melody." In response, the speaker calls out, "O Blues!" The musician rocks back and forth on his stool and plays the tune. The speaker calls out, "O Blues!" The musician sings in his deep voice with a sorrow tone and the piano so called moans.
His song is about having nobody in the world, depending on nobody but himself and he came to a conclusion to quit with the frowning and put his troubles on what he describes as a shelf. The singer's foot tap on the floor as he plays more chords and sings that he has the “Weary Blues” and is no longer satisfied. Furthermore, he considered himself no longer happy and realizes he was better of dead. He sings the blues for a few more hours before he heads off to bed, with his eyes close he repeats the song till he falls asleep. Sleeping so still that the speaker describes him as almost dead.
Hughes wrote "The Weary Blues" in free verse with an irregular rhyme scheme. “The musician plays until the night is at its darkest, at which time the singer goes to bed and sleeps like a man who is dead.” These last lines are abnormal but also represent the importance of the singer's music. “Hughes suggests that the singer has achieved an emotional release through his music. Instead of turning to violence, suicide, drink, or some other desperate measure to numb to his pain, the singer is able to channel his anger, sadness, and weariness into his music.” (Blues narrative pg. 110) Similarly, Hughes's verse is musical, as he repeats the line “He did a lazy sway.” The musician rocks back and forth on his stool while playing a mournful tune that comes from his soul. The speaker describes the musician's tone as “melancholy," which could also describe the poem itself, especially the ending. The musician thumps his feet on the floor over and over again, and Langston Hughes echoes these beats by repeating the word "thump." The singer’s struggle to master his pain captures the essence of the blues and something of the deeper nature of Harlem in the 1920’s.
Langston Hughes made a big impact through his works. “His characters express themselves through traditional songs and song forms, and he pioneered in adapting the twelve-bar blues form to the printed page.” (Hughes/Olsen p. 5) He recorded his poetry with jazz bands, most notably with Charles Mingus in 1958 on the album Weary Blues. “Hughes represented the blues in his fiction, promoted the genre in his essays, and popularized written blues poetry more widely than perhaps any prior literary figure.” (Blues narrative pg. 144)
His life and work were enormously important in shaping the artistic contributions of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. Unlike other notable black poets of the period. Hughes refused to differentiate between his personal experience and the common experience of black America. He wanted to tell the stories of his people in ways that reflected their actual culture, including both their suffering and their love of music, laughter, and language itself. “When Langston Hughes wasn’t writing, you could find him promoting the work of other authors. He didn’t write to become an academic.” (Asian P.) He wanted to give a voice to the average person who was struggling in their pursuit of happiness. Because of this, his influence is still felt even today, nearly 50 years after his death. Hughes Died May 22, 1967 at the aged of 65 due to complications of prostate cancer. Hughes' “Panther and the Lash” was published after his death. In 1973 the first Langston Hughes Medal was given out by The City College of New York. The City College of New York annually recognizes an influential African American writer with the Langston Hughes Medal. This is a lasting testament to the legacy that this prolific writer left the world through his words. The state of New York made the home a landmark in 1981 and it was added to the National Register of Places just a year later. In February 2002 the U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp honoring Langston Hughes. This stamp was the 25th in the Black Heritage series and marked Hughes's 100th birthday.

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Works Cited

"Langston Hughes Biography: African-American History: Crossing Boundaries: Kansas Humanities Council." Langston Hughes Biography: African-American History: Crossing Boundaries: Kansas Humanities Council. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.

Lempert, Benjamin R. "Hughes/Olson: Whose Music? Whose Era?." American Literature 87.2 (2015): 303-330. MasterFILE Elite. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.

Barlow, Daniel. "Blues Narrative Form, African American Fiction, And The African Diaspora." Narrative 24.2 (2016): 134-155. Academic Search Complete. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.

New Works Cited Page
Asian Pacific. N.p., 29 Nov. 2014. Web. <http://apecsec.org/5-fun-facts-about-langston-hughes/>.

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