Brief thoughts on Langston and Africa

 

I thought about Langston Hughes all day today, thinking about what he meant to me, how much I still don’t know about him and his work…I also thought about what it means for me to be here in Bamako, Mali, a poet and trying to make sense of myself here.

I came across this poem doing what I do with a good portion of my days, surfing the net, reading, researching etc and I came across this on ChickenBones:

Africa
Sleepy giant,
You’ve been resting awhile.
Now I see the thunder
And the lightning
In your smile.

Now I see
The storms clouds
In your waking eyes:
The thunder,
The wonder
And the new
Surprise.

Your every step towards
The new stride
In your thighs.

– Langston Hughes

This poem resonates with me as look at out into what is now early morning Feb 2nd and think about the future of Africa. Although things are dire in many countries, there are many countries where the people are thriving, that energy is palpable. I feel it when talking with people about their country and I see it in all of the building that is going on. I also saw and felt that creative spark in talking to the young people at the American International School of Bamako, who I had the opportunity to spend the day with a few days ago.

langston-youth

This Hughes poem despite its age does what so many good poems do, it speaks to its reader where that reader is found. It takes a poet of extreme vision to simultaneously be timely in one’s own day and transcendent 47 years after your death…

langston-smoke

Thank you Langston Hughes, you give us all who claim to poets something to strive for.

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