They carved the letters yellow,
the wood around the letters green,
chained a picnic table to the grass
out near where the roof of the dead
mall directs a crack
of sunset to radiate the Burger King sign gold.
Last place open after midnight:
poems & poets
They carved the letters yellow,
in memoriam the once-frozen North
Our collective consciousness does not allow punishment
where it cannot impose blame.
United States v. Lyons
An Introduction to Langston Hughes
In Langston Hughes’s landmark essay, “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain,” first published in The Nation in 1926, he writes, “An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must also never be afraid to do what he must choose.” Freedom of creative expression, whether personal or collective, is one of the many legacies of Hughes, who has been called “the architect” of the black poetic tradition. He is certainly one of the world’s most universally beloved poets, read by children and teachers, scholars and poets, musicians and historians.
Langston Hughes became the voice of black America in the 1920s, when his first published poems brought him more than moderate success. Throughout his lifetime, his work encompassed both popular lyrical poems, and more controversial political work, especially during the thirties. He expressed a direct and sometimes even pessimistic approach to race relations, and he focused his
organic form: Since the development of natural history and biology in the eighteenth century, the word organic has primarily referred to things living and growing. Machines took on new significance during the Industrial Revolution, and romantic thinkers began to reject eighteenth-century mechanical philosophies of mind, differentiating between organic and inorganic systems, natural and mechanical bodies. Taking a lead from the German critic A. W. Schlegel, Samuel Taylor Coleridge distinguished between mechanic form and organic form in an essay on Shakespeare:
The form is mechanic when on any given material we impress a pre-determined form, not necessarily arising out of the properties of the material — as when to a mass of wet clay we give whatever shape we wish it to retain when hardened. The organic form on the other hand is innate, it shapes as it develops itself from within, and the fullness of its development is one and the same with the perfection of its outward Form.
couplet: The couplet, two successive lines of poetry, usually rhymed (aa), has been an elemental stanzaic unit—a couple, a pairing—as long as there has been written rhyming poetry in English. It can stand as an epigrammatic poem on its own, a weapon for aphoristic wit, as in Pope’s “Epigram Engraved on the Collar of a Dog which I gave to his Royal Highness” (1734):
I am his Highness’ Dog at Kew;
Pray tell me Sir, whose Dog are you?
The couplet also serves as an organizing pattern in long poems (Shakespeare’s “Venus and Adonis,” 1592–1593; Marlowe’s “Hero and Leander,” 1593) or part of a larger stanzaic unit. It stands as the pithy conclusion to the ottava rima stanza (abababcc), the rhyme royal stanza (ababbcc), and the Shakespearean sonnet (ababcdcdefefgg).
The rhyming iambic pentameter or five-stress couplet—later known as the heroic couplet—was introduced into English by Chaucer in “The Prologue to the Legend of Good Women” (