Categories
20th century American American Poetry Black History English General Harlem Renaissance Langston Hughes Literature modern poetry Poetry Uncategorized United States

“My People” by Langston Hughes


Langston Hughes in 1936 by Carl Van Vechten

My People

The night is beautiful,

So the faces of my people.

The stars are beautiful,
So the eyes of my people.

Beautiful, also, is the sun.
Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people.

Categories
20th century African-American America American American Poetry General Harlem Renaissance Langston Hughes modern poetry Poetry Uncategorized United States

“Theme for English B”


by Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes portrait by Carl van Vechten in 1936 (SOURCE: U.S. Library of Congress)
Listen to “Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes

The instructor said,

Go home and write
a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you—
Then, it will be true.

I wonder if it’s that simple?
I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.
I went to school there, then Durham, then here
to this college on the hill above Harlem.
I am the only colored student in my class.
The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem,
through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,
Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,
the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator
up to my room, sit down, and write this page:

It’s not easy to know what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I’m what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:
hear you, hear me—we two—you, me, talk on this page.
(I hear New York, too.) Me—who?
Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
I like a pipe for a Christmas present,
or records—Bessie, bop, or Bach.
I guess being colored doesn’t make me not like
the same things other folks like who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I write?

Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white—
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
That’s American.
Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that’s true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me—
although you’re older—and white—
and somewhat more free.

This is my page for English B.

Categories
20th century African-American American American Poetry Black History Harlem Renaissance Langston Hughes Uncategorized United States

“Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes


"Mother to Son"
by Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
Bare.

But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.

So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

Categories
19th century African-American American Poetry Georgia Douglas Johnson Harlem Renaissance Uncategorized United States women poets

“The Measure” by Georgia Douglas Johnson (1880 – 1966)


“The Measure”

Fierce is the conflict—the battle of eyes,
Sure and unerring, the wordless replies,
Challenges flash from their ambushing caves—
Men, by their glances, are masters or slaves.
Source: The Heart of a Woman and Other Poems (The Cornhill Company, 1918)
Categories
19th century African-American American Poetry Georgia Douglas Johnson Harlem Renaissance Uncategorized women poets

“Black Woman” by Georgia Douglas Johnson (1880 – 1966)


“Black Woman”

Georgia Douglas Johnson1880 – 1966

Don’t knock at the door, little child,
     I cannot let you in,
You know not what a world this is
     Of cruelty and sin.
Wait in the still eternity
     Until I come to you,
The world is cruel, cruel, child,
     I cannot let you in!

Don’t knock at my heart, little one,
     I cannot bear the pain
Of turning deaf-ear to your call
     Time and time again!
You do not know the monster men
     Inhabiting the earth,
Be still, be still, my precious child,
     I must not give you birth!
Categories
19th century African-American Georgia Douglas Johnson Harlem Renaissance Uncategorized women poets

“Foredoom” by Georgia Douglas Johnson (1880 – 1966)


“Foredoom”

Her life was dwarfed, and wed to blight,
Her very days were shades of night,
Her every dream was born entombed,
Her soul, a bud,—that never bloomed.
Source: The Heart of a Woman and Other Poems (The Cornhill Company, 1918)
Categories
19th century African-American America American American Poetry Georgia Douglas Johnson Harlem Renaissance Uncategorized women poets

“Quest” by Georgia Douglas Johnson (1880 – 1966)


Quest

The phantom happiness I sought
   O’er every crag and moor;
I paused at every postern gate,
   And knocked at every door;
In vain I searched the land and sea,
   E’en to the inmost core,
The curtains of eternal night
   Descend—my search is o’er.
Categories
19th century African-American America American American Poetry Georgia Douglas Johnson Harlem Renaissance Uncategorized women women poets

“My Little Dreams by Georgia Douglas Johnson (1880 – 1966)


My Little Dreams

I’m folding up my little dreams
Within my heart tonight,
And praying I may soon forget
The torture of their sight.

For time’s deft fingers scroll my brow
With fell relentless art—
I’m folding up my little dreams
Tonight, within my heart.

Categories
20th century African-American American American Poetry Anne Spencer Harlem Renaissance Poetry Uncategorized United States women women poets

“The Wife-Woman” by Anne Spencer (1882 – 1975)


The Wife-Woman

Maker-of-sevens in the scheme of things
From earth to star;
Thy cycle holds whatever is fate, and
Over the border the bar.
Though rank and fierce the mariner
Sailing the seven seas,
He prays, as he holds his glass to his eyes,
Coaxing the Pleiades.
I cannot love them; and I feel your glad
Chiding from the grave,
That my all was only worth at all, what
Joy to you it gave.
These seven links the Law compelled
For the human chain—
I cannot love them; and you, oh,
Seven-fold months in Flanders slain!
A jungle there, a cave here, bred six
And a million years,
Sure and strong, mate for mate, such
Love as culture fears;
I gave you clear the oil and wine;
You saved me your hob and hearth—
See how even life may be ere the
Sickle comes and leaves a swath.
But I can wait the seven of moons,
Or years I spare,
Hoarding the heart’s plenty, nor spend
A drop, nor share—
So long but outlives a smile and
A silken gown;
Then gaily I reach up from my shroud,
And you, glory-clad, reach down.
Categories
20th century African-American American American Poetry Anne Spencer Harlem Renaissance Poetry Uncategorized women women poets

“Translation” by Anne Spencer (1882 – 1975)


Translation

We trekked into a far country,
My friend and I.
Our deeper content was never spoken,
But each knew all the other said.
He told me how calm his soul was laid
By the lack of anvil and strife.
“The wooing kestrel,” I said, “mutes his mating-note
To please the harmony of this sweet silence.”
And when at the day’s end
We laid tired bodies ’gainst
The loose warm sands,
And the air fleeced its particles for a coverlet;
When star after star came out
To guard their lovers in oblivion—
My soul so leapt that my evening prayer
Stole my morning song!