Friday, February 28, 2014

Langston Hughes - "A Dream Deferred" (information, words, & video examples)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases two YouTube examples of Langston Hughes' 1951 poem "A Dream Deferred". This post also includes information about Langston Hughes and his "Dream Deferred" montage which contains the poem that begins "What happens to a dream deferred". The complete words to that short poem are also included in this post.

The content of this post is presented for cultural, historical, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Langston Hughes for his creative legacies. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publishers of these videos on YouTube.

"James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form called jazz poetry. Hughes is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance."...

..."[Langston] Hughes, who claimed Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Carl Sandburg, and Walt Whitman as his primary influences, is particularly known for his insightful, colorful portrayals of black life in America from the twenties through the sixties. He wrote novels, short stories and plays, as well as poetry, and is also known for his engagement with the world of jazz and the influence it had on his writing, as in his book-length poem Montage of a Dream Deferred (Holt, 1951). His life and work were enormously important in shaping the artistic contributions of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. Unlike other notable black poets of the period—Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, and Countee Cullen—Hughes refused to differentiate between his personal experience and the common experience of black America. He wanted to tell the stories of his people in ways that reflected their actual culture, including both their suffering and their love of music, laughter, and language itself."...

"Montage of a Dream Deferred is a book-length poem suite published by Langston Hughes in 1951. Its jazz poetry style focuses on descriptions of Harlem (a neighborhood of New York City) and its mostly African-American inhabitants.[1] The original edition was 75 pages long and comprised 91 individually titled poems, which were intended to be read as a single long poem.[2] Hughes' prefatory note for the book explained his intentions in writing the collection:

In terms of current Afro-American popular music and the sources from which it progressed— jazz, ragtime, swing, blues, boogie-woogie, and be-bop—this poem on contemporary Harlem, like be-bop, is marked by conflicting changes, sudden nuances, sharp and impudent interjections, broken rhythms, and passages sometimes in the manner of a jam session, sometimes the popular song, punctuated by the riffs, runs, breaks, and disc-tortions of the music of a community in transition.[3]

The primary motif of the poem is the "dream deferred", which represents the opposition between Harlem of the 1950s and the rest of the world.[4] Other motifs include boogie-woogie and discrimination against African-Americans. The poem is characterized by its use of the montage, a cinematic technique of quickly cutting from one scene to another in order to juxtapose disparate images, and its use of contemporary jazz modes like boogie-woogie, bop and bebop, both as subjects in the individual short poems and as a method of structuring and writing the poetry.[5] The poem is divided into five sections (although some editions contain six); each section represents a different time of day in Harlem, moving from dawn through the night to the dawn of the following day. The poem begins and ends with the same two lines: "Good morning, daddy! / Ain't you heard?".[5] Montage of a Dream Deferred was Langston Hughes' first major publication following the end of World War II.[5] Its themes include the subjugation of the black community, African-American racial consciousness and history, and the need for social change to resolve the injustices faced by the residents of Harlem."
The short poem that begins "What happens to a dream deferred" is part of this montage.

By Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the 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?


Example #1: "Dream Deferred (Harlem)" Langston Hughes poem GREAT EXAMPLE of Harlem Renaissance literature


Tim Gracyk, Published on Jul 2, 2013

Example #2: A Dream Deferred

Huntington Theatre Company, Published on Feb 13, 2013

What happens to a dream deferred? LeRoy McClain ("Walter Lee Younger" in the production) performs the classic poem by Langston Hughes. The Huntington's production of Lorraine Hansberry's timeless family story A RAISIN IN THE SUN, directed by Liesl Tommy, plays March 8 - April 7, 2013 at the Avenue of the Arts / BU Theatre.
Click to read about the 1959 play A Raisin In The Sun

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