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Langston Hughes

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  • July 2013
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Q: Several poets have more than poem in our text. Select one characteristic theme (or other element) and compare the two poems by the same author.
Influenced by the need to share the society of black American life during the 1920s through 1960s, Langston Hughes was inspired by jazz music which was popular among black Americans during the time of his writing. He told the stories of his people in ways that mirrored their genuine culture, including both their agony and their love of music, laughter, and language itself. The poems written by Hughes, “Dream Boogie” and “The weary Blues” best exemplify his love for music in his work while also combining the view of a black American’s struggle with everyday life. Both poems are based around music, but the difference between the two is the tempo of the rhythm. “Dream Boogie” has an upbeat tempo compared to the slow, dragged on tempo of “The Weary Blues”

At first look of “Dream Boogie,” it is clearly a poem that has been inspired by jazz music. The structures of the poem lines are irregular, and italicized words give the impression that the audience responds to the lines. For example, in lines 8-9 the audience responds, “you think/ It’s a happy beat?” the tempo of the rhythm is cut short but picks up again in lines 10-14. Langston Hughes, however, in “The Weary Blues” gives the poem a slow rhythm typical of blues songs. In lines 6-7 “He did a lazy sway…,” the reader can pretty much here the crooning of the words being said that gives a dragged on feel to it. This poem is more overtly sad sounding compared to “Dream Boogie” because of the choice of blues, instead of the upbeat jazzy feel. Although both poems are read or even sung differently, you cannot be confused by the jolly, upbeat tempo of “Dream Boogie”. Behind the fast pace rhythm, both “Dream Boogie” and “The Weary Blues,” concealed beneath a seemingly happy rhythm. However, the message is an unhappy one. Hughes explains how the entire race of his people is...

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