After reading this contingent of poems by Langston Hughes, I am struck by an overwhelming sense of emotion. Instead of feeling like I was reading a poem, it felt like he was telling me a story, his story- which is a goal all poets should have for their writing. I was astonished by the realness and deepness of the works, how he is not afraid to voice exactly how he is feeling as a black man during this time period in America, and gives an inside look into how the events were impacting him through metaphors, comparisons, rhymes, and other characters. The two poems that struck me most on an emotional level would have to be “Theme for English B” and “Let America Be America Again,” as both of these really portrayed how the narrator (Langston) views himself as truly different compared to everyone else because of the color of his skin.
In “Theme for English B”, he emphasizes how he is the only colored student in his class, so writing a paper about what is true to him might not necessarily be true for everyone else. However these lines, “Well I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love. I like to work, read, learn, and understand life” I found very relatable and things the majority of people like to do, showing how similar everyone really is on the inside.
In “Let America Be America Again” he highlights how he wishes America would go back to the place full of dreams and freedom, a beacon of hope for all. It is a surprisingly spirited poem in general, with many exclamation points that add to the enthusiasm for change. Although it does seem upbeat, he does take time to highlight who he is with many “I” statements, emphasizing struggles and adversity he has experienced as a black man who is not free.
After reading, I wonder how the rest of the world felt towards these poems both during this set time period and after. It is crazy to me that the same words can have such different meaning to people depending on its context and who is reading them. I imagine many had differing views on his works during the midst of the Harlem Renaissance compared to today, with the Black Lives Movement and many others based on confronting the racism in our country.