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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Langston Hughes

I have never had the privilege of studying poetry in school. I find poetry intimidating, and a bit headache-inducing. However, once in a while, I will chance upon words with such beauty that I literally feel my heart ache.

One of the poets that I love is Langston Hughes. He writes in such simple terms that everyone understands. Consider this poem that I came across.

Island: Langston Hughes

Wave of sorrow,

Do not drown me now:
I see the island

Still ahead somehow.

I see the island

And its sands are fair:
Wave of sorrow,

Take me there.

–The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, p. 376


Sometimes I find life to be a dreary long road. Yes, there are moments of happiness and ecstasies, and there are moments of sweetness and joy. But beneath it all, it is years of grind, sweat and mundane. So there are moments where I experience a “wave of sorrow”. 

This poem reminds me to stay hopeful. To just clench my teeth and bear with it, and keep the image of the beautiful island in my head. 

Of course, I can’t compare myself to Langston. I am sure that his life experiences are way worse than me, and he still managed to keep his humour and wit. I really love that his poems has a lot of grit in it, and always manages to have that optimism. See another of his poem that I love.

Mother to Son

Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor -
Bare.

But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.

So, boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps.
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now -
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.


Can you see the vivid image of a black mother talking to her son, maybe with one hand on her hip and the other hand pointing to him? It makes for a funny image, somehow. 

Yet, the words have such meaning and power. Who are we to complain, when our older generations have seen worse things than us? They have gone through terrible hardships, and still managed to keep on climbing. 

So let’s keep our complaints to ourselves. Keep smiling. Take risks. And row your way to the island!

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Hi, I would be very happy if you could leave some comments or words of encouragement!