I found this book at a local library sale. Stamps on the inside front cover tell me the book’s original home was the Tenth Street School library in 1978.
Now it lives on my poetry shelf stamped OBSOLETE. Out of date.
How far from the truth.
Langston Hughes’ poetry, illustrated with Ann Grifalconi’s woodcuts dig to the heart of then and now. The accessible symbolism is real for kids. The dark and light, the shadows, the wall, the dream. Students’ connections were quick. To their lives, to what they know. They couldn’t believe it was written in over ninety years ago.
That wall is still there in similar and different ways. Yet their dreams live. That’s one of the beauties of youth. While they noticed the darkness, they also saw the explosion of exclamation points at the end breakthrough allowing light and dreams to shine through.
As I Grew Older
by Langston Hughes
It was a long time ago.
I have almost forgotten my dream.
But it was there then,
In front of me,
bright like the sun–
And then the wall rose,
Between me and my dream.
Rose until it touched the sky–
I am black.
I lie down in the shadow.
No longer the light of my dream before me,
Only the thick wall.
Only the shadow.
My dark hands!
Break through the wall!
Find my dreams!
Help me to shatter this darkness,
To smash this night,
To break this shadow
Into a thousand lights of sun,
Into a thousand whirling dreams
Thank you, Penny, for hosting Poetry Friday Roundup at Penny and Her Jots.
12 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Langston Hughes”
Will repeat-glad it works this time! The book is a wonderful find, and it’s a poem new to me. I love “Help me to shatter this darkness,/To smash this night,/To break this shadow/Into a thousand lights”. Love the inner rhyme, and that picture, wow. Thanks, Julieanne!
How very timely, and what a powerful poem. I love that Langston Hughes still speaks to new generations in such lively, fresh words. Thanks for sharing, Julieanne!
I’ve often wondered who determines “obsolete”. I, too have had great works in my library marked such. (The Carrot Seed is one!).
This post speaks to the resonant staying power of poetry. Powerful words by Langston Hughes.
Beautiful words. We should do an anthology that modern kids could lay hands on, something like all the Colors of America. It’s too bad that books like this go out of print.
Yeah for comments working! I have to agree that this poem is even more relevant today than when it was first written. I’m glad your students connect with it.
Such a powerful poem! I looked for the book. There are a few for sale on Amazon. It’s anything but obsolete. Langston Hughes was a brave and soulful voice that should be preserved and heard again and again.
What an amazing find, that book! The woodcuts are extraordinary. It is haunting (and shameful and discouraging) to have something like this appear out of the past and speak so exactly to this moment.
It makes one worry. Are we going in circles?
I shared some Langston Hughes this week, too! Incredible (and heartbreaking) how powerfully his words still resonate, so many years after they were first penned. Both a testament to the man, and a sad indication of how far we still have to go…
What a find. His poetry is finding new life in these times.
I’ve enjoyed reading the powerful poems from Langston Hughes on this Poetry Friday. Thanks for sharing this one.
This is a new one to me, Julieanne – stunning illustrations.