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The Collected Poems

4.31  ·  Rating Details ·  13,632 Ratings  ·  172 Reviews
"The ultimate book for both the dabbler and serious scholar--. [Hughes] is sumptuous and sharp, playful and sparse, grounded in an earthy music--. This book is a glorious revelation."--Boston Globe

Spanning five decades and comprising 868 poems (nearly 300 of which have never before appeared in book form), this magnificent volume is the definitive sampling of a writer who h
Paperback, 736 pages
Published October 31st 1995 by Vintage (first published November 15th 1994)
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Feb 26, 2010 Charity rated it it was amazing
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?
May 08, 2010 Madeline rated it really liked it
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
Winter Sophia Rose
Jul 17, 2015 Winter Sophia Rose rated it it was amazing
Insightful, Timeless, Heartfelt, Realistic & Compelling! A Powerful & Beautiful Read! I Loved It!
Emma Sea
Dec 30, 2013 Emma Sea rated it really liked it
Shelves: paperback, poetry
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
Ken Moten
It's a comprehensive anthology of Langston Hughes' poems, that's all you need to know.
Oct 19, 2009 Jelinas rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 06, 2009 Shayana rated it liked it
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
Jan 22, 2008 Megan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
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
Daniel L.
Jul 25, 2013 Daniel L. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Emilie Frechie
Jul 16, 2008 Emilie Frechie rated it really liked it
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
Gayle Pitman
Dec 14, 2015 Gayle Pitman rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I'm someone who often has a hard time "getting" poetry. When I read Langston Hughes, particularly poems like "Dear Lovely Death," "Mother to Son," and "Memo to Non-White Peoples," I get it. I checked this book out of the library, and now I'm going to buy a copy. Some of these poems I'll read again and again.
Aug 13, 2015 Angèle rated it it was amazing
I studied Langston Huges' poetry with my English teacher this year and I absolutely loved it!
I fell in love with his style of writing... so lovely
Nov 27, 2011 Camille rated it it was amazing
A book that belongs in every poetry lovers' house. He was brilliant and his poems withstand the test of time.
Dec 08, 2016 Paula rated it it was amazing
Every single poem in this collection proves that L.Hughes is a man of great power of thought and sensibility. Critics describe him as a poet with radical views who portrayed the African American life in the 20's through 60's, but to me he is the voice that tells us truths about all people who have to work hard to make a living, about those who have no other choice than to follow the 'leaders'. He talks about native Africans working in the Johannesburg mines, but aren't we all doing similar jobs ...more
Jan 24, 2014 Tiffany rated it really liked it
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
Mar 18, 2013 Stephen rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 04, 2009 Will rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Harlem Renaissance! Jazz! Blues!

It's not that this collection is bad, just sprawling. There is no reason why anyone needs to read ALL of these poems.


Update: Upon rereading, I find myself more sympathetic and enamored with Hughes ability to be playful, experimenting with lyrical form. I suppose that time and openness to other opinions have given me a new perspective to begin exploring and enjoying his vast body of work.
Aug 19, 2008 C.P. rated it it was amazing
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.
Dec 19, 2009 Kristen rated it it was amazing
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.
Carol Storm
Sep 12, 2014 Carol Storm rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An invaluable collection from the greatest poet of the Harlem Renaissance.
Milla Solomon
Nov 30, 2016 Milla Solomon rated it it was amazing
I can read this over and over! Such rich words on paper!
Marc Kohlman
Aug 21, 2014 Marc Kohlman rated it really liked it
An unsurpassed collection of poems full of breathtaking beauty, dazzling use of music, majestic pride and celebration of the human spirit! I read the book as part of a course I took on Langston Hughes work from August to December of last year. Now that I have finished college, I can finally write this review. The poems explore the complexity of Hughes own character and the events of his own time. What really struck me about the poems was how they centered on an array of different subjects and ar ...more
Feb 15, 2017 Kevin rated it really liked it
If you want rich insight during the Jim Crow days in American, read this poetry. It will anger and upset you. His writing will allow you to dive into the mind of America and see what actually occurred from American life to war during the time of WII. Without saying more, I will leave with this one poem

Bible Belt

It would be too bad if Jesus
We're to come back black.
There are so many churches
He could not pray
In the U.S.A.,
Where entrance to Negro,
No matter how sanctified,
Is denied,
Where race, not r
Sadia Mansoor
Jan 08, 2017 Sadia Mansoor rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, poetry
The struggle Blacks went through,
The rights Blacks were deprived of,
The pain, the humiliation, the slavery Blacks had to bear,
The patience Blacks had to endure,
The suffering & injustice Blacks had to live with . . .

All in all was perfectly pictured by Hughes' poetry (Y)
This is one of the best collection of poems for understanding Black Literature
Molly Walker
Feb 03, 2017 Molly Walker rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017-books
Langston Hughes's words still ring true and are relevant today. In particular, "Let America Be American Again:"

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
Christina DiMinni
I would specifically use the poem, "I, Too, Sing America" from this collection. This poem is narrated by an African American man in 1926 who is coping with how he fits into American society. Even though many at the time viewed him as less than because of his skin color, he argues that he, too, is a part of America. I would use this as a model text for students to write their own "I, Too, Sing America" poems. This writing activity would prompt students to think about their own unique identity an ...more
J. Alfred
Jan 10, 2017 J. Alfred rated it liked it
This is a mammoth book: it's over six hundred big pages, and probably weighs a pound or so. It will look good on a shelf, and could possibly be useful in hurling at an enemy.
It is also a very worthwhile read in that it traces the career of an important part of the history of American poetry: I mean Hughes himself, of course, but also a fascinating dance between political-'progressive' optimism and cynical realism. Hughes does this over and over in heartbreaking ways: he has to be one of our mos
Oct 24, 2016 Lindsay rated it liked it
A very broad overview of Hughes' beautiful poetry.
Dolores Jefferson
Jan 17, 2017 Dolores Jefferson rated it it was amazing
Langston Hughes is one of my most favorite poets, along with Nikki Giovanni, Emily Dickinson, Yeats, Edna St Vincent Millay, Shakespeare, Donne, Robert Herrick, Gwendolyn Brooks, william Carlos Williams, Federico Garcia Lorca, Tagore, and lately Mary Oliver who is a new discovery.
Dec 30, 2016 Lindsey rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Does a collection of his poems really need a review? I've loved randomly flipping through this, seeing the progression of his work. His poetry was my first true introduction to African American literature, art, poetry, history, etc, so this collection is an important and personal piece to me to have, as I've learned so much more about African American culture and history since first encountering Langston Hughes. I really only have "Theme for English B" to thank.
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  • Selected Poems
  • The Collected Poems, Vol. 1: 1909-1939
  • The Collected Poetry, 1968-1998
  • The Collected Poems
  • The Complete Collected Poems
  • The Collected Poems
  • Transbluesency: Selected Poems, 1961-1995
  • Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems
  • Complete Poems
  • The Collected Poems
  • Collected Poems
  • Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems, 1988-2000
  • The Complete Poems
  • Collected Poems, 1948-1984
  • The Collected Poems, 1957-1987
  • Collected Poems, 1947-1980
  • The Complete Poems
  • The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara
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…