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The Collected Poems

4.29 of 5 stars 4.29  ·  rating details  ·  10,361 ratings  ·  125 reviews
Here, for the first time, is a complete collection of Langston Hughes's poetry - 860 poems that sound the heartbeat of black life in America during five turbulent decades, from the 1920s through the 1960s. The editors, Arnold Rampersad and David Roessel, have aimed to recover all of the poems that Hughes published in his lifetime - in newspapers, magazines, and literary jo ...more
Paperback, 736 pages
Published October 31st 1995 by Vintage Books USA (first published November 15th 1994)
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The Complete Poems by Emily DickinsonLeaves of Grass by Walt WhitmanShakespeare's Sonnets by William ShakespeareThe Waste Land and Other Poems by T.S. EliotAriel by Sylvia Plath
Best Poetry Books
24th out of 1,397 books — 1,550 voters
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Best African American Books
20th out of 514 books — 612 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Awesome and passionate and stirring and lovely, all in ways a 21st century Midwestern white girl probably isn't fully qualified to appreciate.


That Justice is a blind goddess
Is a thing to which we black are wise:
Her bandage hides two festering sores
That once perhaps were eyes."

"The Negro Speaks of Rivers

I've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human rivers
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns w
Emma Sea
To my shame, I'd never heard of Langston Hughes before this year (don't judge me too harshly; I bet you've never heard of Witi Ihimaera). It's kind of bleedin' obvious, but wow, amazing!

I didn't like the actual book too much; the binding was poor and quite a few pages popped out, and I didn't like the font, or some of the section title page layouts. The four stars reflects very much my rating of this particular physical book, not the poetry. Which is a ten. I'd recommend buying a different editi
I am insanely in love with Langston Hughes' poetry. My favorite:

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?
When I’ve seen someone do something really well, it often inspires me to try it for myself – especially as it pertains to writing. When I read a really good book, it makes me want to write fiction. When I hear a really good performance, it makes me want to write songs.

And after reading The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, I want to write poetry so badly that all of my thoughts have been forming in blank verse for days.

I first discovered Langston Hughes in high school. I was part of our school
Have you ever read something that made your face frown and made you think-what?! Well the poem Mother to Son by Langston Hughes did that exact thing to me. As I read this poem our face turned upside down. The struggle of the poem is the best. It was that the mother's life was really rough, she didn't want her son to go through what she went through.The Imagery, Man ! the imagery used in the poem is the common imagery that is used in everyday life. However, not thought about in that same way. Thi ...more
The wisdom by which I govern my life, I find in the poetry of Langston Hughes. Beyond color, beyond era, this man sings a song of life which is in harmony with the music of my thoughts: it pulls me through the day-to-day drudgery, it whips me from my laziness and sadness, it ignites my rage against inhumanity, it laughs with my joy, and it shows me how to celebrate a life in all of its moments.
Each of us has a poet or poetry that will speak to us if we allow it to. So much of it seems incompreh
Emilie Frechie
When I teach American Lit., and more specifically the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes resonates with students more than any other. He has the ability to define the American identity, particularly for young readers, in a focused way that is unmatched. I had a student in one of my most challenging classes ever, raise his hand and say that he thought that the issues with violence in the inner city were just the "explosion or collision" of so many generations of "deferred dreams." The class fell silent t ...more
Ken Moten
It's a comprehensive anthology of Langston Hughes' poems, that's all you need to know.
Daniel L.
A Towering Achievement, a Poet of the People

Langston Hughes has been called "the Shakespeare of Harlem." The quality of his poems are certainly worthy of comparison to the Bard's Sonnets. I would add one more nickname: "the Walt Whitman of Harlem." Langston Hughes, as other reviewers have stated, was also very much a poet of the people, not just African American but all Americans. Langston Hughes's poetry sheds a powerful light on the Black experience in all its complexities, from every perspect
Jul 04, 2009 Will rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
Harlem Renaissance! Jazz! Blues! Snap fingers and say yeah!

It's not that this collection is bad, just sprawling. There is no reason why anyone needs to read ALL of these poems. A great number of them are not poetic, i.e. you won't walk away from them thinking "What an interesting allusion! I'm pleasantly miffed! What was that about? I'll have to do some thinking . . ." Instead, you'll go: "Oh, another alternating rhyme scheme. Neat. Oh. It's only eight lines long. How jazzy. I guess."

Repeat afte
How did I make it to my 58th year without reading Langston Hughes? This was a fascinating and exhilarating journey through someone else's eyes. Hughes led a life that took him through much of the turbulence of the 20th century--his race and his intellect combining to keep him an outsider in many waysto both white and black cultures of the day. He wrote evocatively of the Harlem he knew and the jazz that he loves using language and themes that bring you into that scene as few others have. His ear ...more
Carol Storm
An invaluable collection from the greatest poet of the Harlem Renaissance.
Sep 01, 2008 C. rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone
It is an amazing and prodigious body of work by a great poet. Though you may not agree with everything he wrote, you cannot argue with the persuasive passion of his verse. He is also not afraid of writing short poems, which are some of his most affecting and effective. The work has a broad range of themes, as broad as life itself, and not at all limited to the "black experience". Hughes is one for the ages.
Feb 18, 2014 Robin rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: owned
There is so much here that I appreciate and yet so much I know I can never fully understand (being white, living in the 21st century) - and yet there's so much that speaks to the population today. In some ways, the events described in his more political poems no longer are everyday occurrences (lynching, for example, or segregation) but there's so many things about racial relations in the US that still resonant in so many of his poems that it's so easy to forget that I'm reading a poem that was ...more
My favorite poet - I pick this book off my shelves from time to time just to read some poems. He's deep and powerful but also readable.
A book that belongs in every poetry lovers' house. He was brilliant and his poems withstand the test of time.
My first experience with Ask Your Mama (must get up a performance with students!), and some of the later and children's work. Really wonderfully layers and nuances a look at Hughes' career, a career that is usually only marked in anthologies by some poems of his teens and twenties. Really, Ask Your Mama seems to, for me, help me think about Hughes' interaction with the artistic and musical currents in the early 60s. I'm moving on to the biographies next, but it seems like Ask Your Mama in partic ...more
Langston Hughes was a poet (and all-around writer) and an innovator of "jazz poetry," poetry with a jazz-like rhythm and form. His work often deals very directly with the black experience of his time and, as such, it is sometimes difficult for a middle-age suburban white guy who grew up in the 80's and 90's to understand what he's on about. For that reason, and perhaps unfortunately, it was difficult for me to connect with some of the work. That said, there is very much to recommend his work. "L ...more
Mike Jensen
I’m not sure that Hughes is a poet for the ages and I’m not sure that he needs to be. He wrote at a particular time to address the problems on the black community at that time, and sometimes to address the wider social issues of poverty and political disenfranchisement. While there are a very few poems that are just brilliant, most have the impact of a bumper sticker. These are the poems I like the best. They are utterly quotable, smart, fun to read, and meaningful. Many have lost their point ov ...more
I will be focusing on just one poem of Langston’s Hughes collection which is Harlem or later called, Montage of a Dream Deferred. Hughes being one of many writers during the Harlem Renaissance definitely deserves some attention to his work. Many of his poems and writings have to deal with Civil Rights and jazz, but in this particular poem I think anyone one can feel a personal connection. After all, who has not ever had a dream deferred through out the ages? This poem being an inspiration to Lo ...more
Jessica Barrier
Langston Hughes is such an incredible and established writer. His period of writing published his first poem in 1921 at the young age of 19. He cited Carl Sandburg and Walt Whitman as his influences in poetry. He was a very influential writer of the Harlem Renaissance. He used his poems to address racial tension and issues going on at the time. Also about the struggles they faced everyday just trying to get by. He also used themes of urban and the working-class black in his poems. Harlem was a ...more
Langston Hughes poems carry the weight of a freight train and are positively a must read. The beauty of Hughes poems is the unique way they get you to reflect on current and past human rights situations. Personally I liked Hughes poem “Harlem” because of its hopeful ending despite its gloomy introduction, each verse from the poem hits your soul, as Hughes is able to connect to his readers like few poets can. The poem “Harlem” really lets you experience the perspective of a black man having to li ...more
Jennifer Day

One of my top three poets of all time is Langston Hughes. His writing just resonates within me and has held on to me since my late older brother Chris first introduced me to one of his most famous poems around 15 or so years ago (Harlem[2] commonly known as A Dream Deferred) and that particular poem, due in part to the connection I feel to my brother when I read it but also due to its simply written but still profound message, is still my favorite. There are many more favorites, my copy is heav
Cara Byrne
"Hungry child,/I didn't make this world for you./You didn't buy any stock in my railroad./You didn't invest in my corporation./Where are your shares in standard oil?/I made the world for the rich/And the will-be-rich/And the have-always-been-rich/Not for you,/Hungry child" ("God to Hungry Child," 48).

Like some of my other favorite early twentieth century poets, Hughes blends tongue-in-cheek lines with dense, difficult poetic language. I enjoyed this collection (though, the inclusion of 868 of H
My first for Harlem Renaissance and for Jazz poetry too. I was referred to it through a webpage talking about Haiku poetry :) Very indulging and powerful.
I go back to this one all the time, had it on display in the library for Black History Month and again right now for National Poetry Month.
Of course he has good stuff, but a lot was repetitive, though I don't think I can hold that against solely since he didn't make this volume.
Great book. About fifteen years ago I bought this anthology and I have read it over and over. The other reviews of this book caught the experience well. It's not just about jazz or the Harlem Renaissance, it's also about the way some African Americans felt when they read about the march on Selma or the Montgomery bus boycott.

This is not the typical poetry anthology. Hughes could write poems that were all over the place in style. He was also willing to take risk, experimenting with different for
Bruce Macdonald
Vision, rhythm, grace, and compassion. Must read.
One of my favorite poems by Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
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  • Selected Poems
  • The Complete Collected Poems
  • The Collected Poems
  • The Collected Poems
  • The Collected Poetry, 1968-1998
  • The Collected Poems
  • Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems
  • The Collected Poems, Vol. 1: 1909-1939
  • Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems, 1988-2000
  • Collected Poems
  • Opened Ground: Selected Poems, 1966-1996
  • The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara
  • Diving Into the Wreck
  • Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems
  • The Complete Poems
  • Collected Poems
  • Collected Poems, 1948-1984
  • Migration: New and Selected Poems
Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, short story writer, and columnist. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form jazz poetry. Hughes is best known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance. He famously wrote about the period that "Harlem was in vogue."
More about Langston Hughes...
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“Life is for the living.
Death is for the dead.
Let life be like music.
And death a note unsaid.”

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?”
More quotes…