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The Weary Blues

4.45  ·  Rating details ·  1,013 ratings  ·  112 reviews
A beautiful new edition of this beloved poet's first collection, originally published in 1926 when he was just twenty-four.
From the opening "Proem" (prologue poem) he offers in this first book-"I am a Negro: / Black as night is black, / Black the depths of my Africa"-Hughes spoke directly, intimately, and powerfully of the experiences of African Americans, at a time when
Published 1945 by Alfred A. Knopf; 10th Printing edition (1945) (first published 1925)
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I’m not going to lie. Writing a review about a book of poetry is an intimidating task for me. I feel I should compose something lyrical, something beautiful, to show you just how much I understand and admire these lines. I want it to be something expressive of the soulful rhythm of Langston Hughes’s verse. But that’s not going to happen! Damn that left brain! Instead I’ll briefly tell you why I loved The Weary Blues and share a couple of my favorites.

A couple of years ago, I found an old beat u
Jan 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Each February I put together a lineup of books to celebrate African American History Month (U.S.). As my reading year progresses, I discover a varied tapestry of choices, and I have found that my “month” starts earlier and earlier each year. It is mid January, King Day observed is this coming Monday, so I thought I’d kick off the observance with a nearly century old poetry collection by Langston Hughes. I was first exposed to Hughes in middle school when in sixth grade we read his “Mother to Son ...more
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I read Selected Poems of Langston Hughes for my classic-of-the-month and loved it so much I had to read this book of his too. Brilliant! Mr. Hughes is a man I would have loved to have known; he was intelligent and creative, strong and yet vulnerable, kind and compassionate. His poems reach into your soul.  He writes mainly of the Black experience and though as a white person I cannot relate personally to all he writes of, his words nevertheless evoke so much emotion, stimulate many thoughts.  Hi ...more
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In 1926 a twenty-four year old man of color wandered in to a white man's world and declared here are my words.

His name was Langston Hughes.

His first publication, The Weary Blues, was nothing less than badass, a compilation of poems that nodded respectfully both to Walt Whitman and the incomparable Carl Sandburg and. . . oh yeah. . . started off a little something called the Harlem Renaissance, too.

Mr. Hughes wasn't sure about a God or an afterlife, but he did know that he was a human being with
robin friedman
Dec 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Langston Hughes And The Weary Blues

Cheryl A. Wall's recent book "The Harlem Renaissance: A Very Short Introduction" (2016) inspired me to revisit the poetry of Langston Hughes. I had read collections of Hughes' poems some time ago but was largely familiar with him through his under-appreciated autobiographical novel, "Not Without Laughter". As luck would have it I found this new edition of Hughes' "The Weary Blues" in the public library. The volume is even shorter that Wall's book that I read in
Oct 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great collection of poems by Langston Hughes. A few of my favorites are: Ardella, Poem (To F.S.) and Epilogue. Read it and discover your favorites.
Matthew Mousseau
Jan 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,
Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,
 I heard a Negro play.

Down on Lenox Avenue the other night
By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light
 He did a lazy sway . . .

 He did a lazy sway . . .

To the tune o’ those Weary Blues.
With his ebony hands on each ivory key
He made that poor piano moan with melody.
 O Blues!

Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool
He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool.
 Sweet Blues!

Coming from a black man’s soul.
 O Blues!

In a deep so
Danyal Effendi
Aug 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
‘The Weary Blues’ is among the first works of Langston Hughes and is a benchmark in history of African-American poetic history. The poem was awarded as the best poem of the year by Opportunity magazine where it was first published in 1925. It innovate the use of American blues in English poems, which serves as a landmark for various black musical artists; like, Sterling Brown, Yusef Komunyakaa, Michael S. Harper, Robert Hayden and other to follow the same trait. Blue music, which is considered a ...more
Jamall Andrew
Mar 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Sharp and poignant, one of the best poetry books I've ever read in my life. This is Langston at his best, maybe not always at his most vulnerable, but definitely at his sharpest. There's a focus or maybe a maturity I bid earlier writings that is arguably missing or just decreased in his later work. For me, this collection of poetry encapsulates the very best of him. ...more
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I cannot believe I waited so many years to read this gem. It has several well-known poems that had crossed my path before, but I discovered many others that I now cherish.
Jul 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
One of the great literary debuts of the 20th Century, The Weary Blues was first published in 1926. In honor of the book’s 90th anniversary, Knopf re-published the collection with its original cover art and introduction, plus a new introduction by poet Kevin Young. Hughes’s voice was original like Whitman’s, though rooted, as was Whitman's, in the language and culture of America, most specifically for Hughes of black America. Like the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass, its significance has become i ...more
Feb 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
Hughes is an important voice in literature, especially in Black literature and culture. Many of the poems in this selection explore what it means to be Black and celebrates Blackness. His sparse poetry says much in few words. For example:

Suicide's Note

The calm,
Cool face of the river
Asked me for a kiss.


Sick Room

How quiet
It is in this sick room
Where on the bed
A silent woman lies between two lovers—
Life and Death.
And all three covered with a sheet of pain.

Such simplicity, and yet so powerf
Jul 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Seemingly simple verse. The language isn't complicated. But it's beautifully lyrical. He writes as a black everyman. Langston Hughes joyfully celebrates jazz, blues, and black culture. The joy is palpable. Though he also addresses prejudice and racism. At times there's sadness, even a feeling of despair.


The calm,
Cool face of the river
Asked me for a kiss.

Hughes writes with love for "his people, black people." Don't let the simplicity of the language, written for enjoyment of AN
Sean Blevins
Jul 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Hughes is the natural heir to Whitman. This, his first collection is sufficient proof.

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”

They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.
Jenny - Book Sojourner
I'm not a huge poetry reader, but I couldn't resist reading Langston Hughes.
Beautifully written.

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I’ll sit at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”

They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed,—

I, too, am America.
Hannah Warren
Oct 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As the lyrics of these poems shift from darkness to daybreak, the tone shifts, as well. There are joy and pain to be found in both.

There's a safety in the darkness, a freedom for "vulgar dancers [to] whirl" because the "Sun's going down this evening-- / Might never rise no mo.'" The sun is apocalyptic, an ending.

Still, Hughes writes,
Trouble, pain.
Sun's gonna shine
Considering these lines, can we assume that the apocalypse (a great change) is desirable?
Jan 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
bring me all of your dreams ,
you dreamers .
bring me all of your
heart memories
that i may wrap them
in a blue cloud - cloth
away from the too rough fingers
of the world .
Scott Weyandt
Jan 29, 2021 rated it really liked it
The final 2 sections, Shadows in the Sun and Our Land, are especially moving and powerful.
Feb 05, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Langston Hughes’ poems carry you to the place he describes perfectly. As one reads, one almost sings the words, they are so beautifully arranged. Simple yet compelling.
Jul 10, 2018 added it
Highlights: The Negro Speaks of Rivers, The South, Poem (To the Black Beloved), Long Trip, Epilogue.
Jan 24, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, year-2021
It doesn't hold up today. The historical and cultural value makes it important, but it was very repetitive and very much of the same. ...more
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing

To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
Dark like me—
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening . . .
A tall, slim tree . . .
Night coming tenderly
Black like me.

The poetry speaks for itself. Easily one of the best books of poetry I've read in recent years.
Don Heiman
Jun 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Over the past 40 years I always wrote on the last blank page of every book I own the date when I read it. Yesterday I read Langston Hughes’ book of poetry entitled “The Weary Blues” first published in 1926. My copy of the book was republished in 2015 with an introduction by Carl Van Vechten and a new forward by Kevin Young. This morning I erased my penciled “read date” and made a personal commitment to continuously read every day one of the 68 titled poems in his book. I now realize that Langsto ...more
Feb 14, 2021 rated it it was ok
It was cool. But at this point I still just don’t get as much from poetry as I do from novels and nonfiction. Working on it
Read for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, Task #1 - a book written by someone when they were under the age of 25

My final Read Harder task! This was a last-minute swap for Zadie Smith's White Teeth, which I couldn't track down a copy of. I've read a number of the poems in this collection, but not the collection itself, and I was surprised by how many of my favorites ended up being pieces I've never seen anthologized or written about elsewhere (I got halfway done with a Ph.D. in African Americ
Jun 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'll never get tired of reading Hughes. Ever. ...more
Bridgette Azoanee
This collection of poems by Langston Hughes, is very authentic in the way that he captures the true essence of human nature and its resilience to overcome, endure, and to be heard. I really enjoyed entering into the different settings and sceneries of each poem. They grab the reader by the hand and welcomes them in. For example, in Young Sister, “one who sings “chansons vulgaires” in a Harlem cellar, where the jazz-band plays from dark to dawn,” and in, To A Little Lover-Lass, Dead, “she searche ...more
Sugarpuss O'Shea
I read Mr Hughes' first poetry collection (The Weary Blues) & his final poetry collection (The Panther and the Lash) on the same day, so I thought I would do something I've never done before & talk about two books at the same time. . .

Langston Hughes was unashamedly Black at a time when it could get him killed. You feel it in WEARY & 41 years later in PANTHER. The differences however, are that in WEARY, the poems were somewhat softer, rhapsodic, almost music-like (whether this was due to his bei
Marisa Gettas
This is Langston Hughes' first poetry collection. It was originally published in 1926 when he was only 24. He was a pioneer in bringing 'jazz poetry' to our consciousness, where the poems are ideally performed accompanied by jazz music. Over the course of his career, he was a prolific writer; penning novels, poetry, essays, columns, non-fiction novels, and fiction. This book was republished in 2015 by Knopf.

From "Hughes experimented with forms and the gray area between narrative and l
Jeffrey Babbitt
Jan 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
When so many have stood upon the shoulders of a giant, it can be difficult to remember how large that giant loomed in the beginning. This collection isn't as impressive as I want it to be, especially after reading Kevin Young and Carl Van Vechten's introductory words. The worst of it (e.g., Black Pierrot) sounds like a pale, immature imitation of European/white verse. Why include it at all? To ward off ghettoization as "Black poetry," or to break into the mainstream poetic conversation? Did the ...more
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Madison Mega-Mara...: #51 The Weary Blues 1 3 Jun 29, 2017 03:39AM  

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James Mercer 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

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“I am a Negro:
    Black as the night is black,
    Black like the depths of my Africa.
I’ve been a slave:
    Cæsar told me to keep his door-steps clean.
    I brushed the boots of Washington.
I’ve been a worker:
    Under my hand the pyramids arose.
    I made mortar for the Woolworth Building.
I’ve been a singer:
    All the way from Africa to Georgia
    I carried my sorrow songs.
    I made ragtime.
I’ve been a victim:
    The Belgians cut off my hands in the Congo.
    They lynch me now in Texas.
I am a Negro:
    Black as the night is black,
    Black like the depths of my Africa.”
“The lazy, laughing South
With blood on its mouth.
The sunny-faced South,
The child-minded South
Scratching in the dead fire’s ashes
For a Negro’s bones.
    Cotton and the moon,
    Warmth, earth, warmth,
    The sky, the sun, the stars,
    The magnolia-scented South.
Beautiful, like a woman,
Seductive as a dark-eyed whore,
    Passionate, cruel,
    Honey-lipped, syphilitic—
    That is the South.
And I, who am black, would love her
But she spits in my face.
And I, who am black,
Would give her many rare gifts
But she turns her back upon me.
    So now I seek the North—
    The cold-faced North,
    For she, they say,
    Is a kinder mistress,
And in her house my children
May escape the spell of the South.”
More quotes…