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Langston Hughes A Poet Supreme Black poetry is poetry that 1 is grounded in the black experience 2 utilizes black music as a structural or emulative model and 3 consciously transforms the prevailing standards of poetry through and inconoclastic and innovative use of language No poet better carries the mantle of model and innovator the Langston Hughes the prolific Duke Ellington of black poetry Hughess output alone is staggering During his lifetime he published over eight hundred poems Moreover he single-handedly defined blues poetry and is arguably the first major jazz poet Early in his career he realized the importance of reading his poetry to receptive audiences When Alain Locke arranged a poetry reading by Hughes before the Playwriters Circle in 1972 in Washington a blues pianist accompanied him bringing Hughes the artist and blues music one step closer together even though Hughes felt that the piano player was too polished He suggested to his Knopf editor that they ought to get a regular Lenox Avenue blues boy to accompany him at his reading in New York In the fifties Hughes was a major voice in the movement of recording with jazz accompaniment Although I have neither the space inclination or ability to give a close textual reading of Hughess poetry and although a large body of critical work already exists I would like to focus on one piece by Hughes to evidence my case for his stature That piece is the multipart book-lenght poem Montage of a Dream Deferred 1951 In Montage which Hughes described in a letter to Arna Bontemps as what you might call a precedent shattering opus-also could be known as a tour de force Hughes addresses a number of critical problems facing black poetry 1 how to affect a modern sensibility and at the same time maintain a grounding in the folk culture 2 how to achieve the textual representation of the music especially in terms of improvisation and variation
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