Every now and then I come across someone talking about the writing of Langston Hughes and I have been intrigued enough to add him to my list of authors to read. An African-American writer from the first half the 20th century, Wikipedia describes Hughes as a poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist, who occasionally found himself in the midst of controversy. The price of being a social activist, I guess.

So I was browsing through the local bookstore this afternoon and came across Selected Poems of Langston Hughes. I picked it up and turned to this poem, which I re-publish here at the risk of copyright infringement.

Bad Morning, by Langston Hughes

Here I sit
With my shoes mismated.
I’s frustrated!

There’s more like that, light and unassuming. There’s writing about music, love and romance (love and romance, not necessarily the same thing), life’s annoyances and life’s tragedies, uplifting faith and disappointing lies.

But what makes it all so special is the way he tells it. Sure, there’s the outdated vernacular that might sound offensive to our enlightened(?) ears, but there’s an honesty to the writing, uncluttered with pretense, and a rhythm that is full of life, even in the midst of despair.

Still Here, by Langston Hughes

I’ve been scarred and battered.
My hopes the wind done scattered.
Snow has friz me, sun has baked me.
Looks like between ’em
They done tried to make me
Stop laughin’, stop lovin’, stop livin’ –
But I don’t care!
I’m still here!

At the time they called it jazz poetry.  I can dig it.