Monday, November 7, 2016

For Wednesday: Hughes' Poetry (see below)

For Wednesday, make sure to read all the selections below from Langston Hughes:

* The Negro Speaks of Rivers

* I, Too
* America
* The Weary Blues
* Jazzonia
* Mother to Son
* Negro
* Mulatto
* Elevator Boy
* Red Silk Stockings
* Ruby Brown
* Eldery Race Leaders
* Dream Variation
* Goodbye, Christ
* Advertisement for the Waldorf-Astoria 

As you read, consider some of the following ideas:

* How does Hughes' style compare with Cullen's? Would Cullen agree with his approach?

* How do these poems seem to illustrate Hughes' ideas of the "racial mountain" in his essay? Additionally, how do they offer the "perspective" on his race and historical moment that Richard Wright demanded of Harlem Renaissance writers? 

* How does Hughes use dialect or the slang of everyday speech to color his poetry?  Why is this important to him, even though many mainstream readers/critics might reject it as ‘uncivilized’?  How does this language help us read/hear the poem itself?  (you might consider that Hughes was influenced by blues and jazz and wanted his poems to sound like this music).

* In poems like “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” “Aunt Sue’s Stories,” and “Negro,” Hughes uses history or historical events as a metaphor.  How does this work?  How does history help us ‘see’ who he is—and who his people are?  Consider how, in a poem like “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” the poet could have “bathed in the Euprhates…raised the pyramids above [the Nile]…and “heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans” (4). 

* In traditional literature/poetry, “white” is a positive color and “black” a negative color.  How does Hughes play with this tradition in his poetry, and how does “black” become a very different metaphor in many of these poems? 

* Which poems share similar themes and even inspiration with Cullen's? How might we consider one or more of these poems a revision or a response to Cullen? 

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