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The panther and the lash : poems of our…

The panther and the lash : poems of our times

by Langston Hughes

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This is the first full collection of Hughes' works I've read; strange that I should find his last collection first. There are some excellent poems, mostly inspired by the civil rights issues of the time. Some of the context is lost on me and I'd probably benefit from a critical edition with footnotes. ( )
  section241 | Feb 19, 2013 |
“The Panther and the Lash” (1967) was Langston Hughes’ final book, published in the last year of his life. While some of this collection had been published in previous decades, the book reads as powerful 1960’s Civil Rights poetry – filled with moral outrage for centuries of oppression and with references to events such as the Birmingham church bombing in 1963 that killed four little girls. “I am the American heartbreak - the rock on which Freedom stumped its toe” says Hughes. Heartbreak, indeed.

From “Death in Yorkville”
“From the slave chain to the lynch rope
To the bullets of Yorkville,
Jamestown, 1619 to 1963:
Emancipation Centennial –
100 years NOT free.”

From “Frederick Douglass: 1817-1895”
“To all the world cried,
Hear my voice! ...
Oh, to be a beast, a bird,
Anything but a slave! he said.

Who would be free
Themselves must strike
The first blow, he said.

He died in 1895.
He is not dead.”

From “Words Like Freedom”
“There are words like Liberty
That almost make me cry.
If you had known what I know
You would know why.”

From “Freedom”
“I have as much right
As the other fellow has
To stand
On my two feet
And own the land.

I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I’m dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread.”

Children’s Rhymes
By what sends
the white kids
I ain’t sent:
I know I can’t
be President.

What don’t bug
them white kids
sure bugs me:
We know everybody
ain’t free.

Lies written down
for white folks
ain’t for us a-tall:
Liberty and Justice –
Huh! –For All?

Dinner Guest: Me
I know I am
The Negro Problem
Being wined and dined,
Answering the usual questions
That come to white mind
Which seeks demurely
To probe in polite way
The why and wherewithal
Of darkness U.S.A. –
Wondering how things got this way
In current democratic night,
Murmuring gently
Over fraises du bois,
“I’m so ashamed of being white.”

The lobster is delicious,
The wine divine,
And center of attention
At the damask table, mine.
To be a Problem on
Park Avenue at eight
Is not so bad.
Solutions to the Problem,
Of course, wait.

Lastly my favorite; the inspiration for the title of the play “A Raisin in the Sun”:
Dream Deferred
What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in sun?
Or fester like a sore –
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over –
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode? ( )
  gbill | Feb 19, 2012 |
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To Rosa Parks of Montgomery who started it all when, on being ordered to get up and stand at the back of the bus where there were no seats left, she said simply, "My feet are tired," and did not move, thus setting off in 1955 the boycotts, the sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, the petitions, the marches, the voter registration drives, and I Shall Not Be Moved.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 067973659X, Paperback)

From the publication of his first book in 1926, Langston Hughes was America's acknowledged poet of color, the first to commemorate the experience--and suffering--of African-Americans in a voice that no reader, black or white, could fail to hear.  In this, his last collection of verse, Hughes's voice is more pointed than ever before, as he explicitly addresses the racial politics of the sixties in such pieces as "Prime," "Motto," "Dream Deferred," "Frederick Douglas: 1817-1895," "Still Here," "Birmingham Sunday." " History," "Slave," "Warning," and "Daybreak in Alabama." Sometimes Ironic, sometimes bitter, always powerful, the poems in The Panther and the Lash are the last testament of a great American writer who grappled fearlessly and artfully with the most compelling issues of his time.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:01 -0400)

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