Reflection on the Poetry of Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes, born at the turn of the 20th century, was an extremely influential poet and social activist for the duration of his career. Through his various works, he made an incredible effort to bring awareness to, and fight back against, the discrimination faced by African Americans (as well as other unfortunate citizens looked down upon by contemporary American society). These themes are the most easily noticeable recurrence throughout his various poems, but the ideas and styles they present are absolutely worth deeper examination.

Hughes’ poetry is extremely varied all across the board. Despite the similar themes and subject matter, of the ones I’ve read, no two poems sound exactly the same. They might have a different tone, or a different rhythm, or sometimes no rhythm at all. Surprisingly, although I personally prefer some of these styles over others, Hughes managed to write all of them with a considerable amount of talent, and no lack of emotional weight. Above all else, each of these poems is intended to speak to people, but in different ways. Some are intended for those at the top of the American social hierarchy, to make them understand the plight faced by all the people below them. Others are intended directly for those on the bottom, less intended to create sympathy than to inspire.

Something I personally found interesting (and appreciate) about these poems is that, regardless of how somber the tone may be, it’s rare that they lose their optimism completely. Life is Fine, which shows it’s narrator on the verge of suicide, implies that he found reason to keep living, ending with the phrase, “Life is fine!” For another example, Let America Be America Again goes into great detail explaining the wrongs committed throughout America’s history, simply stating that the reality of the nation doesn’t live up to it’s promise. However, it ends with the hopeful declaration that fulfilling that promise still isn’t out of reach.

In the end, I really appreciate the worldview and ideas Langston Hughes’ poetry presents, as well as the styles used to express those ideas. Any reader can tell that there’s a lot of emotion and talent behind these words, and considering the subject matter and time in which they were written, that means a huge amount.

10 thoughts on “Reflection on the Poetry of Langston Hughes”

  1. Good job Ben! I like how you say how deep the emotions in the poems are, but I was wondering what affect these emotions had on you? Very well written though.

  2. Hello Ben, this is a breathtaking response to Langston Hughes poetry pieces. You not only separate the different poems and portray their variabilities but also individual lines Hughes uses to develop feelings within yourself. You also very clearly describe the way the poems affect your mind set and perspective giving me, all the information I would need to know your stance.

  3. Great job Ben! I also agree with you that regardless how sad or some the subject was I like the optimism used by Hughes. A suggestion is maybe next time you don’t have to include factual information about Langston Hughes, but instead elaborate on your personal response to his poems.

  4. I totally agree with you Ben on how the poems never lose their optimism. It is a great touch and the reader feels less down about the topic. How did the optimism affect you?

  5. Hey Ben, I though that your post was very professional and in the right context. You did a very good job, I agree with what Amira said, maybe you can tell us a little more about your opinions of Langston Hughes.

  6. Hi Ben, your analysis includes a lot of details I really appriciate your point of view. Hughes’ work is definitely always diverse in its own right

  7. I enjoyed reading your response, however, I disagree with you’re point in the second to the last paragraph. I believe that Hughes did retain a very optimistic point of view for most of his career, however, there are a couple of his poems that stand out to me, and work against you’re point of view. One of them is Harlem [1], this poem starts off sad and depressed, and in the end, it stays depressed. With the words
    “And wonder
    What we’re gonna do”.
    (Line 20-21). Ballad of a Landlord is yet another example of Hughes’s sadness when writing poems. Over all though great job and I love your writing.

  8. Hello Ben, what a well written response! I totally agree with you when you mentioned how optimism is almost always there, I think the optimism in his poems are a good thing and give me a sense of open mindedness. Well done Ben.

  9. Hello Ben. In your response you explained lots of things Langston Hughes does in his poems like put Optimism. I love how you explained this but would like to know how this affects you?

  10. Ben, I agree that Hughes does a great job of keeping his optimism about the sensitive topics he writes about. He almost always has a hopeful outlook on the situations he writes about, no matter how negative the outlooks seems.

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