Having temporarily shelved the massive The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes a few months ago, I finally picked it back up this week. Incredibly, the first poem on the page where I had left off was “The Bitter River,” one of Hughes’s longer and more serious pieces. It’s a poem that’s about both a specific event and the broader African American experience.
It always strikes me how well Hughes is able to marry political and social cries with his usual jazzy sing-song style. All of his poems could easily be set to music, but where a lesser poet might not be able to carry the weight of such topics with such musicality, he does it with ease.
The Bitter River
by Langston Hughes
(Dedicated to the memory of Charlie Lang and Ernest Green, each fourteen years old when lynched together beneath the Shubuta Bridge over the Chicasawhay River in Mississippi…
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