Joyce A. Joyce
In an essay on Langston Hughes in Blackness and the Adventure of Western Culture, George Kent, I believe, offers useful insight into the timelessness of Hughes's literary contributions and thus answers the questions not only why Hughes was referred to during his time as the “Shakespeare of Harlem” but also why his poems and fiction continue to stimulate oral and written dialogues at the forefront of African American literature. Although Kent's comments refer primarily to Hughes's autobiographies, they also characterize what I refer to as Langston Hughes's sensibility. Kent writes, “Hughes is consistent with what I have called the is-ness of folk vision and tradition—life is lived from day to day and confronted by plans whose going astray may evoke the face twisted in pain or the mouth open in laughter. The triumph is in holding fast to dreams and maintaining, if only momentarily, the spirit of the self” (57).
Describing what he means by the is-ness of the folk tradition as he explores the black cultural tradition in Hughes's work, Kent explains, “From the animal tales to the hipsterish urban mythmaking, folk tradition has is-ness. Things are. Things are funny, sad, tragic, tragicomic, bitter, sweet, tender, harsh, awe-inspiring, cynical, otherworldly, worldly—sometimes, alternately expressing the conflicting and contradictory qualities; sometimes, ex