Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Langston Hughes

Why Hughes is still important, popular, engaging, relevant, poetic, lovely, and great...

Just read The Weary Blues or listen to the version with music by Mingus. Or go to the National Portrait Gallery to see Winold Reiss' famous and fabulous portrait of Hughes: reflective, chin in hand, book open, the colors and lines of the portrait evoking the music and energy of the Harlem Renaissance. I wish Hughes had done the Inaugural Poem for Obama. Instead of empty emotionally manipulative patriotism (sorry Richard Blanco, I think you could have done better) Hughes would have inspired us and made us sway with his rhythms and his refusal to shy away from real content. The way he could bring us in with music and call our attention to the details of real life for real people. The boogie-woogie rumbles its continuing dreams, always present but patient, subtle, clever, linguistically tuned, musically savvy, politically subversive, revolutionary, peaceful, engaging. In Dream Boogie the narrator tells us to listen closely...ain't you heard... the beats are rumbling the music is playing dreams may be deferred but they are not destroyed. We can talk about the sun and the mood all day long or we can listen closely, for the beat, and see what will come of it. If we are lucky, we can become a part of the making of all that continues to come next.

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