* NOTICE: Mr. Center's Wall is on indefinite hiatus. Got something to say about it? Click HERE and type.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday Poetry XLII -- Suicide and Langston Hughes

I am not an authority on anything.  Well, not yet.  Not really.

That said, I've been reading more Langston Hughes than I ever have.  Not that that's very hard.  My previous experience with this particular master was pretty much limited to "The Weary Blues" and maybe four or five others.

Now maybe I'm one of the few geeky enough to notice this, but, as much as I like textbooks, there are some serious shortcomings to them, because, often, instead of picking great works and teaching the works and the authors, so many of them have a particular objective in mind (rhythm, rhyme, plot development, symbolism, tone, etcetera) and dig through their memories or archives or old college notebooks to find some piece that demonstrates that particular objective.  While that is fine--and little more--and while it indeed introduces young or inexperienced readers to key pieces from some of the great contributors to literature, it also completely skips over so much of the truly great stuff--and maybe stuff that wouldn't otherwise show up, or couldn't, in a textbook, because it just doesn't perfectly match up with any of those objectives.

Back to my claim from above--or admission, really: you know, I am not an authority anything, and much less Langston Hughes, but, well, I never got the suicide theme out of his stuff (you know, those six poems) like I have lately.  Anyway, the theme makes sense, of course, considering his general subject matter, but my surprise and satisfaction are much less about his writing about suicide and that its subtle and graceful alignment  to his general subject or motif or whatever than it is about how absolutely brilliant his treatment of the theme is.

Here's the poem that really got me.  And I guess it "gets me" because it really nails to tumultuous confluence of emotions that must go through one's heart and soul when brought to this, well, place.

Life is Fine

I went down to the river,
I set down on the bank.
I tried to think but couldn't,
So I jumped in and sank.

I came up once and hollered!
I came up twice and cried!
If that water hadn't a-been so cold
I might've sunk and died.

     But it was
     Cold in that water!
     It was cold!

I took the elevator
Sixteen floors above the ground.
I though about my baby
And thought I would jump down.

I stood there and I hollered!
I stood there and cried!
If it hadn't a-been so high
I might've jumped and died.

     But it was
     High up there!
     It was high!

So since I'm still here livin',
I guess I will live on.
I couldn've died for love --
But for livin' I was born.

Though you may hear me holler,
And you may see me cry --
I'll be dogged, sweet baby,
If you gonna see me die.

     Life is fine!
     Fine as wine!
     Life is fine!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Be sure to subscribe to the thread to receive discussion updates.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...