Thursday, April 5, 2007

To the First Poet I Understood


Dear Langston,


Thank you for freeing me
at age 15
from the stutter and wheeze
of dead language. You showed me
your loopy, jazz, free associations,
the intimations my words
could infer. After reading
Theme for English B, I was
awakened. I heard rhymes
to the water dripping in the shower,
spent hours listening to the grass,
to the sound of breaking glass, tried
to force it all into words I read more,
about landlords, cities, and rivers, dreams
sliding out of reach, heard rhythms
and music I never thought about
before. I thought about
the consonants constancy and
the long low stretch of vowels,
humming inside everything.
Eventually, I moved on, learned
about Jones and brooks, Ginsberg
and Plath, cut a swath
through the last ninety years
of poetry. Still, every time
I teach you, I'm stretching to
reach you, reach back to the time
I first heard the fragile beauty
in simple words.

21 Comments:

Beaman said...

Great poem. It has a nice form which is fun to read. Jazzy music and poetry are favourites of mine. Good write.

GreenishLady said...

That is so, so... Langston Hughes. Not that I'm au fait with all his work, but I have a tape of him speaking about his poetry, and reading quite a few poems. I love how you capture the rhythms that he uses, and these lines:

"I thought about
the consonants constancy and
the long low stretch of vowels,
humming inside everything."

This is a Rich poem for me. Thank you.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I really like how you used language here, played with sounds.

Dave said...

A wonderful tribute. How fortunate to have Langston Hughes as your first poet!

bookbinds said...

Really enjoyed this tribute to Langston, particularly liked the first line, "Thank you for freeing me
at age 15
from the stutter and wheeze
of dead language."

pepektheassassin said...

I think this is marvelous writing! --a really fine poem. A good take on the prompt,too.

Regina Clare Jane said...

I loved this- the influence poets can have on young minds is invaluable! Thank you for sharing!

poet with a day job said...

This is a great love letter, and also a really well-done poem. I like the way you have incorporated some of Hughes tricks of the trade - and you did it beautifully. Nice work.

Colorful Prose said...

This is so musically jazzy. Love it.

Michelle said...

Very nice. I need to go back and read some Langston Hughes work (I know I "had to" during English at some point). I wonder if it will look different as an adult (and adoptive parent of an African American little girl)? No doubt.

Pauline said...

"I thought about
the consonants constancy and
the long low stretch of vowels,
humming inside everything."

Oh, yes!

Jessica said...

Hi Everyone --

Please forgive the short post...I'm kinda sick and trying to conserve energy for commenting on everyone's work.

Thank you very much for the comments. I would wholly recommend Langston Hughes to anyone who loves poetry or poetry and politics smooshed together, check out his work.

Brian said...

This poem is great; has a wonderful jazzy beat.

Hope you feel better soon. :)

Clockworkchris said...

I really liked the diction you used in this poem. I think this was the perfect poet for you to pick from the great poem you produced. Hope you feel better. Sorry I have been lazy and not checked in on your page in a while but a death in the family has made life life much more stressful.

Fragmentsinsight said...

Excellent tribute. Very, very nice to read. You lead us through the rich experience of reading poetry. I like this a lot.

gautami tripathy said...

"I heard rhymes
to the water dripping in the shower,
spent hours listening to the grass,
to the sound of breaking glass, tried
to force it all into words I read more,
about landlords, cities, and rivers, dreams
sliding out of reach, heard rhythms
and music I never thought about
before."

This reverberates for me. Very good.

gautami
Ode to the Bard

Rethabile said...

Wonderful homage to poetry, to Langston, and to direct language.

Gypsy Purple said...

Wishing you and your family a happy and blessed Easter

divya said...

The greatest of poems are those with simplest of words... There's no bigger truth than that...
cheers...

Pat Paulk said...

Beautifully written tribute to a great poet!!

Anonymous said...

This was an amazing poem