Poem for a Friday


hughes

If you haven’t heard of Langston Hughes (1902-1967), a poet, playwright, and more who rose to prominence during the Harlem Renaissance (a period of significant African American literary production, beginning with the 1920s), today might be the perfect day to find out more about him. The poem below–drawing on the stylings of jazz and be-bop–is quite famous, and those of you who know Lorraine Hansberry‘s famous play A Raisin in the Sun will recognize her borrowing. –JLH

“Harlem”

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
Like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
Like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

–Langston Hughes, Montage of a Dream Deferred, 1951

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One response to “Poem for a Friday

  1. This was the first poem I encountered in university, almost 35 years ago, in a first year introductory English course with Neil Hultin. It was in the Norton Introduction to Literature. The power and beauty of the poem still resonate with me after all those years. Didn’t know about the jazz and be-bop influence. Thank you for bringing it back to me!

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