Langston Hughes - a Literary Genius

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Langston Hughes (1902-1967), one of the most prominent figures in the world of Harlem, has come to be an African American poet as well as a legend of a variety of fields such as music, children’s literature and journalism. Through his poetry, plays, short stories, novels, autobiographies, children's books, newspaper columns, Negro histories, edited anthologies, and other works, Hughes is considered a voice of the African-American people and a prime example of the magnificence of the Harlem Renaissance who promoted equality, condemned racism and injustice that the Negro society endured, and left behind a precious literary and enduring legacy for the future generations. In an endeavor to explore why and to what extent his poetry has still been read and used in modern days, I’ve found no African American writer has ever been an extreme inspiration to all audiences of every ethnic society as much as Langston Hughes was. More than 30 years after his death, the works of Hughes continue to appear, extensively used in the world of literature, education, filming and music, and is still relevant as an evidence of his nationwide and worldwide popularity in the present days. According to the article “Langston: This Year’s ‘Come Back’ Kid” that quoting a comment from Maryemma Graham, co-director of the Langston Hughes National Poetry Project at the University of Kansas , Hughes reached that level of prominence because all his works appeal to audiences of all generations, races and nations, and interest in his work cuts across

socioeconomic lines. With the same idea, Arnold Rampersad, Langston Hughes biographer and cognizant dean of humanities at Stanford University, wrote in The Collected Works of Langston Hughes : “These volume of the work of Langston Hughes are to be published with the same goal that Hughes pursued throughout his lifetime: making his books available to the people.”. Also, he assesses that Hughes’ key of success was his loyalty to simple writing style from which he showed no interest in poetry that most people could not read or understand “Modern poetry often appeals to a limited audience, deliberately, and contains complex vocabulary and arcane allusions...” Rampersad said. “He did not want to write like that; he had an aesthetic of simplicity." Personally, I agree with Rampersad since I’ve found no unnecessary words in Hughes’ poems. With his elegant and simple phrases, Hughes brought out complex questions about racism and inequality in the U.S. society. Besides, delivering his poetry from his heart, Hughes made many black readers feel as though everyday practices of their lives was portrayed in his writing, as writer Ishmael Reed once said, “We should honor Langston Hughes for his ability to say what was in souls of millions” . In a 1996 essay on Langston Hughes' Collected Poems in the New Republic, Helen Vendler, one of America's top poetry critics, echoed Rampersad’s point when she said that most of his poems are accessible to anyone who can read, and even the more allusive ones generally mention events that were, at the time, in the daily newspapers . In addition, when mentioning of Hughes’ masterpiece “ The Negro Speak of Rivers”, Kevin Powell, writer, founding staff member and former senior writer for Vibe magazine who helped introduce the hip-hop generation to Hughes' work, noted, “Any

group can relate to that piece. If you're an immigrant coming from Ireland or Italy, or a Jew who has escaped Nazi Germany, or if you're a woman, you can relate to that piece _ or if you're gay or lesbian, or obviously if you're African-American". However, behind their apparent simplicity, the glory of Langston Hughes' poems was to use many symbols to illustrate his main themes and still maintain the elements of profundity, humor and irony in the meanings such as those in “Ku Klux”, “The Negro Speak of Rivers”, “What Happened to a Dream Deferred ?”, “I, too, Sing America”, “Memo To Non-White People”… Langston Hughes’...
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