Langston Hughes Use of Poetry Elements

The Harlem Renaissance was a movement in the 1920’s and 30’s centered around black americans in mostly in Harlem, New York. During this movement, black writers’, musicians’ and artists’ works were flourishing. A writer from this period in time. who was one of the main innovators of jazz poetry, happens to be Langston Hughes. His poems and writings were greatly descriptive of black americans’ lives in that time period. His use of poetic elements make his writings connect with his audience, visually and emotionally.

During Hughes’ time and the Harlem Renaissance, racism and segregation was still greatly in effect. Jim Crow laws limited Black Americans greatly but did not limit them from dying for the country in war. Hughes, of course had problems with much of the mistreatment of black people and you can tell in poems of his that this is true. Not only did Hughes write about black people’s suffering, he wrote much about blacks’ love of music, dancing and just simply their beauty.

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Hughes wrote a lot about dreams and crushed dreams, most likely of black people.

His poem entitled simply, “Dream”, also has great examples of imagery. His best use of imagery in this poem is the when he relates lost dreams to a ‘barren field frozen with snow’. Without dreams or ambitions, what is their to look forward to in life? Everyone has some dream whether big or small and having those dreams keep life interesting. So without dreams life would just be empty, like a completely snow-white field. Hughes also makes his key statement evident by repeating it twice in the poem. The first and fifth line say ‘Hold fast to dreams’, which was Hughes’ idea behind writing this poem.

In his poem “Dream Deferred”, he uses also uses imagery to explain the pain of a crushed or deferred dream. Blacks’ didn’t have many opportunities to fulfill their dreams due to the laws that limited their success, and of course this must have been painful for them to dream big and not be able to follow through with that dream. Hughes explains this pain very well with the images of a dried raisin, a sore, rotten meat, and an explosion. The poem “Dream Variations”, is probably my favorite of Hughes’ poems.

His use of comparing the black of the night with black people is my favorite thing about this poem. This poem is just explaining a simple dream. Just like in all of Hughes’ poems he uses imagery and descriptive words to help the reader visualize what is going on in his poem. For instance he makes the image of arms flinging even greater by saying that they were wide and whirling while dancing. He also uses imagery to create an idea of the setting, which is a cool evening, beneath a tree and the sun is about to set. He makes this evident by saying the night comes on gently.

This poem is my favorite because I believe Hughes was trying to let black people know that in their dreams can be an escape from their terrible reality. Hughes’ use of rhythm in his poems helped make the writings relate more to the black culture, which was heavily influenced by music. In his poem “Negro Dancers”, Hughes writes it with such a strong rhythm it could be an up-tempo song, which would fit perfectly with a dance. In the poem he uses the dance, The Charleston, which was a black originated rag-time dance, to create and image of blacks dancing that dance. He also writes that “White folks, laugh! , which I’m pretty sure in that time, that actually did happen since this dance is quite funny to look at. In Hughes’ poem “Dream Boogie”, there are great examples of his use of imagery and rhythm. His use of rhythm in this poem makes the feel more beat-driven and the last stanza is very similar to a drum fill at the end of a jazz chart. The last stanza can also be thought of as scatting, which was very common in music during Hughes’ time. His use of imagery in this poem made the poem very clear to me by using the dance term, boogie-woogie, to describe the dream deferred.

A boogie-woogie is a very wild dance, which Hughes makes even more clear by saying it was a rumble. Hughes used a lot of imagery to help his poems connect with the readers, but not only did he use imagery, he used everyday language of blacks. He wrote the poems about and for black people in his time and making the language similar to the vernacular that was used at that time makes the poems easier to understand at that time and relate to the subject that Hughes is writing about.

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