Langston Hughes’ Poetry Reflection

After finishing the selected Langston Hughes’s poems in our class my perspective of the Harlem Renaissance has broadened greatly. The Harlem Renaissance is a topic that I knew about from previous schooling, however, my knowledge of it was relatively shallow. I know of many arts produced at that time but none have helped me understand it as much as Hughes’s poetry. Hughes wrote poetry about the real world in each of the poems even if it was disguised as a hypothetical situation. His poetry was written to everyone with poems like The Negro Speaks of Rivers, and Negro written to the African American population. Poems like Memo to Non-White Peoples, and Deferred written to the privileged White population. And, poems like Let America be America Again,  and Life is Fine to everyone in between.

Furthermore, to understand many of Hughes’s poems you need a lot of background information. So, when reading the poems I would often have to research many concepts in the poem. This only further broadened my knowledge about the era, and helped me understand some of the other arts I knew from the time a lot better. With his long timeline of writing poems we also get to see how the ideas of the Harlem Renaissance changed over time.

Similarly, we can see Hughes’s ideas changing as he broadened the topics he would write about in his later years. His early poems being specifically about the African American population’s problems, while his later poems included more minorities and under privileged populations. We also see the influence of other writers build on him. The most significant influence being Walt Whitman. We see Whitman’s influence in poems like Harlem [1] where his tone is matched to what would be expected from Whitman. In his later poems such as Goodbye Christ, or Paper for English B where he writes from his perspective which he never used to.

The poems we read even helped me understand some modern media better. For example, from reading the poems I can understand more modern music made by artists such as the Wutang Clang, N.W.A, or 2pac better. These artist’s music is similar to many of Hughes’s poems because even though the message is not always clear in the different mediums they both relate to problems in the world. These different artists all have something in common in their art, which is the message they intend to deliver. However, before reading the poems off Hughes I did not always understand that. In short the poems of Hughes have not only helped my understand what things were like back in his days, but also to understand more modern media, as some people may have viewed the work of Hughes to be ahead of his time. This concept of timelessness in Hughes’s poems is what makes his poems still a topic of discussion in the modern era. His poems inspire people of all colours every day and will continue to do so long into the future.

11 thoughts on “Langston Hughes’ Poetry Reflection”

  1. Hi Coen, I think your analysis of Hughes’ work is definitely interesting. Because of the extensive background knowledge that we must learn, it then makes a lot of senses to his work and the meaning behind them.

  2. Hey Coen, I found your personal response to be very interesting. I liked how you related it to more modern examples like 2pac, Wutang clang, etc. Very nice PR, good job.

  3. Hey Coen, the integration of modern problems connected to Hughes work really impressed me as I had never looked at it in that way and therefore had a more one-sided perspective which now you most definitely broaden for me

  4. I think it’s really interesting how you used the content of the poems you read to expand your knowledge of the time period, especially considering most people (myself included) approach it the other way around. Additionally, making connections to the present day is a nice touch. Well written!

  5. Great job Coen! I also agree that with Langston Hughes’ poetry is easier to understand. I liked how you talk about the historical background and the author. What was the poem that made you understand more what was happening in those days?

    1. The biggest one that helped me was probably “Harlem Sweeties” or “Dream Boogie” because it had a context of culture I was not fully familiar with.

  6. Excellent Response Coen! I like how you compared Langston Hughes’ poetry to artists like 2pac, N.W.A and Wutang Clang. I had never thought if this before. Now that you mentioned it I realized how similar they actually are. How did poems written to African Americans and poems written to the White population affect you? Do you have any examples of similarities of the artists mentioned and Langston Hughes’ poetry?

    1. The ideas usually line up quite well, for example, Wutang’s “C.R.E.A.M.” is about how they must sell drugs to get enough money to live, I thought of how Ruby Brown has to be a prostitute to do the same. Or, another, example, is in 2pac’s “Changes” where he talks about what needs to be changed, this reminded me of a couple Langston Hughes poems but mainly “Let America be America Again”. And N.W.A. is always talking about brutality and mistreatment.

  7. Coen.. I love your PR because of how creative you were with applying the knowledge from his poems to modern day black culture like rap. You said that to understand hughes poems you need lots of background knowledge. I completely agree. When i think of all the things i didnt understnad in the Poem it really jumped at me how much background knowledge i didnt know.

  8. This is very insightful in parts. It’s good that Hughes’ work has taught you more about racism and what was happening around his time. It is interesting how you compare his work to popular, modern gangster rap artists. Overall I enjoyed reading this.

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