Sunday, May 28, 2006

Reader's Diary #97- Langston Hughes: The Dream Keeper and Other Poems (FINISHED)

Despite the fact that many of Hughes' poems deal with abstract topics (mainly dreams) and I prefer my poetry a little more grounded in reality, there's some real beautiful lines in his poetry that I hope I don't soon forget (thankfully, I own a copy of the book). I love the imagery for instance, in "Sailor" when he writes "An anchor on his breast,/ And tattooed on his back he had/ A blue bird in a nest." I love the images which say so much of the character's sensibilities and the contrast between the sea and land images.

Some entire poems are beautiful too. The poem simply entitled "Poem" seems at first glance too simple (and perhaps too sentimental) to warrant a second glance, but I was glad I went back to it. His comparison of a friendship (or love) to a poem, says quite enough.

And finally, while it may not be beautiful, I'd like to mention another set of lines that jumped out at me. There's a stanza in "The Negro" that goes, "I've been a worker:/ Under my hand the pyramids arose./ I made mortar for the Woolworth Building." If you can't find brilliance in those lines, you're not trying very hard.

There's also a poem that I had forgotten reading once before, "Mother to Son." Anyone who's read Mairuth Sarsfield's No Crystal Stair (it was a Canada Reads contender in 2005), is familiar with this poem. In this collection, "Mother to Son" was an important reminder to me about voice. I had up until that poem, been feeling a little harsh towards Hughes' use of old black dialect in some poems while not in others. In some poems, he wrote such colour-free lines as "To where the spring is wondrous rare", while in others such lines as "Goin' down de road, Lawd," pinpoints race and country in a single read. Up until "Mother to Son" I was feeling that either Hughes was not being true to himself as he wrote the colourless lines, or that he was forcing the accent in the other poems in order to appear authentic. In either case, something felt disingenuous. But the different voice in "Mother to Son" helped remind me that Hughes, like any poet, could vary the voices of his poems. If some voices had unclear ethnicities, so be it. If some poems had obviously southern American black voices, so be it. Just like the voice in "Mother to Son" isn't even male, it's important to note that the voice and the poet are necessarily the same.

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