Langston Hughes Community Poetry Reading 2012

The Poet

Once again, organizer extraordinaire Anne Clanton and RISD Museum are hosting a poetry marathon in honor of Langston Hughes. If all you know of Hughes is a quick reading of ‘Dream Deferred’ you don’t know this poet. His short poems build on one another. Read aloud by different voices to a jazz beat, they take you into the gorgeous mosaic of New York City in the 50’s and 60’s.

It’s fun, too, to see Providence people up on stage, with performing talent you never knew they had. Watch out for Central High School. They have a drama coach.

This writer will be participating for the forth year in a row. Wish me luck, or break a leg or whatever.

17th-Annual Langston Hughes Community Poetry Reading
Sunday, Feb 5 1:00p
at Metcalf Auditorium, RISD Museum, Providence, RI

Two-time Grammy Award-winning performer Bill Harley reads Langston Hughes’ poetry aloud, along with members of the
community, and accompanied by the Daniel Ian Smith Jazz Trio. Coordinated by Anne Edmonds Clanton; co-sponsored by RISD’s English Department. Free to public; reception follows.

(Thanks, to the notice.)

Here’s directions to the Museum.


A Valentine from Ninjanurse–

Get me a cool cloth for my forehead, and clutch my pearls for me while you’re at it. I saw on the nets that K.D.Lang sang Leonard Cohen’s song ‘Hallelulia’ at the Olympics opening ceremony. I wonder if any Canadian snow survived unmelted.

I heard an interview with Leonard Cohen by Terry Gross on NPR some time ago. He went to a Zen monastery so he could do nothing for a while. Brave man. Nothing is the hardest thing to do. I heard a little bit of ‘Hallelulia’ then.

Pam’s House Blend posted K.D.Lang’s performance at a recent concert. I love K.D.Lang. I heard ‘Constant Craving’ about ten years ago at a women’s martial arts conference performed with kata, so I think I’ve got the drift.

But I’m basically visual, and I really take it in when I read it. I looked up the lyrics.

Damn, that man can write.

Here’s YouTube with the Great Man himself and some big-haired blond women giving it some Holiness.

And K.D. Lang with Constant Craving. She sings Hallelulia wonderfully, but I like this better.

Reading Langston Hughes

Almost everyone has heard Langston Hughes’ poem, ‘A Dream Deferred’, and a few of his other short poems.

At least that’s what I learned in high school. Without context or access to the whole body of his work, I didn’t recognize his greatness as a poet. That all changed about three years ago when I accepted an invitation to participate in the Langston Hughes Annual Community Poetry Reading. This year was the fifteenth, organized by Anne Edmunds Clanton and sponsored by the RISD Museum of Art.

It’s an honor, and kind of scary to read. Many of the readers are actors, musicians, teachers and storytellers. The Mayor of Providence reads a poem. This year featured storyteller Len Cabral, Jamele Adams, teacher and poet, actor Ramona Bass-Kolobe, Anne Clanton (a formidable presence) and many other accomplished and experienced performers. Pretty daunting company and a high bar. The Daniel Ian Smith Trio provides jazz improvisation and background for those who want their reading set to music.

Hearing Hughes’ poems read out loud for two hours I discovered how they work together. Each short piece relates to others, forming a whole that reflects the Harlem he lived in and loved. That reflects the country he loved. Patriotism runs through his work, the desire to see America truly be a nation of liberty and justice for all.

Last year’s reading happened right after the inauguration of President Obama. This year, Hughes’ themes of unemployment, long workdays, struggling to pay the rent, all hit uncomfortably close to home. His poem, ‘Birmingham Sunday’ about the bombing that killed four little girls in 1963, does not rest easily in the past.

That poem, and others, can be read here. His books remain in print.

The sixteenth is planned for February 2011, check out RISD for details.