Om Weary Blues
Nearly ninety years after its first publication, this celebratory edition of The Weary Blues reminds us of the stunning achievement of Langston Hughes, who was just twenty-four at its first appearance. Beginning with the opening ';Proem' (prologue poem)';I am a Negro: / Black as the night is black, / Black like the depths of my Africa'Hughes spoke directly, intimately, and powerfully of the experiences of African Americans at a time when their voices were newly being heard in our literature. As the legendary Carl Van Vechten wrote in a brief introduction to the original 1926 edition, ';His cabaret songs throb with the true jazz rhythm; his sea- pieces ache with a calm, melancholy lyricism; he cries bitterly from the heart of his race . . . Always, however, his stanzas are subjective, personal,' and, he concludes, they are the expression of ';an essentially sensitive and subtly illusive nature.' That illusive nature darts among these early lines and begins to reveal itself, with precocious confidence and clarity. In a new introduction to the work, the poet and editor Kevin Young suggests that Hughes from this very first moment is ';celebrating, critiquing, and completing the American dream,' and that he manages to take Walt Whitman's American ';I' and write himself into it. We find here not only such classics as ';The Negro Speaks of Rivers' and the great twentieth-century anthem that begins ';I, too, sing America,' but also the poet's shorter lyrics and fancies, which dream just as deeply. ';Bring me all of your / Heart melodies, ' the young Hughes offers, ';That I may wrap them / In a blue cloud-cloth / Away from the too-rough fingers / Of the world.'From the Hardcover edition.