I recently came across an article that I wanted to discuss. What better place for my thoughts to go to than my blog? I am passionate about the arts, in general, and about music and poetry in particular. I’ve noticed that there is an undeniable link between the two. With artists like Bob Dylan, it is more evident. As you probably know by now, he’s won the Nobel prize.
According to Folkways, it appears that there are two types of poetic forms that began as songs. One of them is the British and American ballad, and the other is the blues one of Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes.
Ballads are known for several centuries now. In the Middle Ages, they were used to transmit a particular message, which mostly related to love and personal feelings. There are several aspects that make a ballad a story song, as it is also known, but I will not go into such details as they might seem tedious.
What I would like to talk about is the poetry of blues. Unlike the formerly mentioned ballads, blues poems are structured in a unique manner. They are shorter and more to the point and have a driving beat to them.
Langston Hughes is said to be the first blues poet. He was born in 1902 in Joplin, Missouri. He first heard the blues in Kansas City, when he was eleven. After having moved to the East Coast, he listened to it in clubs in Harlem, New York. What appealed to him was that this music seemed to have a special beat that resonated with its listeners. That’s why he decided to start writing poetry that resembled blues.
Hughes’ autobiography, The Big Sea, deals with his work, personal experiences, and the way he managed to mix music with poetry. It’s one of the most heartwarming collections of thoughts and memories, and that’s mostly due to the fact that he spent a lot of his years in Harlem and Paris. As a waiter and cook in Paris nightclubs, he had the chance to listen to a lot of musicians and interact with a plethora of dancers and artists, most of whom were alcoholics.
It’s a shame that when we think about the Golden 20s, we tend to forget about the smaller poets, those who aren’t as well-known as novelists Gatsby and Hemingway. We don’t hear about Hughes too often, especially in comparison to Stein and the others.
While I haven’t yet read Hughes’ autobiography, I plan to do so. I’ve checked out its Goodreads page, and it appears to have gathered a myriad of favorable reviews. I am curious to find out more about the man himself and how he managed to create the unique poetry he has written.