Our Olio session will examine the times and works of a great American poet, Langston Hughes. Born James Mercer Langston Hughes in Joplin, Missouri, Langston Hughes, began writing poetry in high school. His first book of poetry, The Weary Blues (Knopf, 1926) was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1026. Claiming Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Carl Sandburg and Walt Whitman as his main influences, Hughes portrayed African-American life in the United States from the twenties through the sixties. His engagement with the worlds of jazz and blues produced poetry noted for its rhythms and musical allusions. A noted author of what became known as the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes wrote about and in the voice of the ordinary people of black America. Rather than appeal to a small audience of elite readers, Langston spoke in “language and themes, attitudes and ideas familiar to anybody who had the ability simply to read.” (Donald Gibson, Modern Black Poets: A Collection of Critical Essays (Prentice Hall, 1973). Like Whitman, he sought to be a “people’s poet.”
Learn more about the Harlem Renaissance and the work of one of America’s finest literary artists. We won’t merely read: we will listen to a few Smithsonian Folkways recordings of Hughes reciting some of his noted works!