Langston Hughes has always been a highly regarded poet. Throughout high school, I knew of the name and most likely read a few of his poems, but I never really looked into his work. I assumed that his poetry would be similar to all the others of that time: hard to understand, hard to relate to my life, and not able to keep my attention.
But the second semester of my first year of college I took an American Literature class that changed my viewpoint on Langston Hughes for the rest of my life (as cliche as that sounds). The night I opened my textbook to "I, Too" I wasn't expecting much. It was somewhere around 10:00 pm and I had been doing homework for hours. I did not want to spend any more time than I had to reading the extremely fine print of my American Lit textbook. But as soon as I read the first lines I was entranced by his writing. Not only was it interesting, but his poems were so well-crafted and understandable. Although I cannot relate to many of the messages, I still immediately respected each and every poem Hughes wrote throughout his career.
What interested me even more about Hughes is that his poetry shifted from being hopeful about the future of America, in terms of democracy and equal rights for all, to a much more pessimistic view about the outlook for the United States. Just by simply looking at the writing one can see the what shifted in Hughes' life. And he became even more relatable to me, in that sense of self-shifting, than he was to me before. He illustrated in his writing that people change and that it's okay for one to change. That even if one's outlook on something changes they still have the potential to be great and change the world through their writing or through whatever outlet suits them best.
If you have never read Langston Hughes' work before I have some good poems for you to start with:
Of course, I recommend "I, Too"--the poem that made me fall in love with Langston Hughes' work in the first place. This poem illustrates how all Americans are and should be equal.
Another poem that I highly recommend is "Negro Speaks of Rivers". This poem describes the inherent influence African people have on the world and the way they have shaped the world. And how they have been in nearly even place when something large has happened in the world.
And, finally, to wrap this up with a third recommendation I recommend "Theme for English B". This poem is a classic and one that everyone should read. I will leave you curious enough to actually look this poem up, and hopefully the other two as well. In fact, how about you just look them all up? I'll leave you to that!