Poetry Friday: Langston Hughes

I found this book at a local library sale. Stamps on the inside front cover tell me the book’s original home was the Tenth Street School library in 1978.

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Now it lives on my poetry shelf stamped OBSOLETE.  Out of date.
How far from the truth.

Langston Hughes’ poetry, illustrated with Ann Grifalconi’s woodcuts dig to the heart of then and now. The accessible symbolism is real for kids. The dark and light, the shadows, the wall, the dream. Students’ connections were quick. To their lives, to what they know. They couldn’t believe it was written in over ninety years ago.

That wall is still there in similar and different ways. Yet their dreams live. That’s one of the beauties of youth. While they noticed the darkness, they also saw the explosion of exclamation points at the end breakthrough allowing light and dreams to shine through.

As I Grew Older

by Langston Hughes

It was a long time ago.
I have almost forgotten my dream.
But it was there then,
In front of me,
bright like the sun–
My dream.

And then the wall rose,
Rose slowly,
Slowly,
Between me and my dream.
Rose until it touched the sky–
The wall.

Shadow.
I am black.

I lie down in the shadow.
No longer the light of my dream before me,
Above me.

Only the thick wall.
Only the shadow.

My hands!
My dark hands!
Break through the wall!
Find my dreams!
Help me to shatter this darkness,
To smash this night,

To break this shadow
Into a thousand lights of sun,
Into a thousand whirling dreams
Of sun!thumb_IMG_4761_1024.jpg

Thank you, Penny, for hosting Poetry Friday Roundup at Penny and Her Jots.

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12 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Langston Hughes

  1. Will repeat-glad it works this time! The book is a wonderful find, and it’s a poem new to me. I love “Help me to shatter this darkness,/To smash this night,/To break this shadow/Into a thousand lights”. Love the inner rhyme, and that picture, wow. Thanks, Julieanne!

  2. Such a powerful poem! I looked for the book. There are a few for sale on Amazon. It’s anything but obsolete. Langston Hughes was a brave and soulful voice that should be preserved and heard again and again.

  3. What an amazing find, that book! The woodcuts are extraordinary. It is haunting (and shameful and discouraging) to have something like this appear out of the past and speak so exactly to this moment.

  4. I shared some Langston Hughes this week, too! Incredible (and heartbreaking) how powerfully his words still resonate, so many years after they were first penned. Both a testament to the man, and a sad indication of how far we still have to go…

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