The Life of Langston Hughes - Vol. 2

By Arnold Rampersad | Go to book overview

8

IN WARM MANURE
1951 to 1953

Hit me! Jab me!
Make me say I did it.
Blood on my sport shirt
And my tan suede shoes.

Faces like jack-o-lanterns
In gray slouch hats
...

"Third Degree," 1949

As 1951 OPENED, Langston Hughes felt less than ever the glamour of authorship. The sheer drudgery of many of his labors was bad enough, but boredom came attended by a nagging feeling of guilt about promises made and contracts taken in the face of deadlines that loomed and then passed unmet. Little relief was in sight, and little relief came. On January 28, after he and Elie Siegmeister met at the latter's home to listen to the prologue and the first scene of "The Wizard of Altoona," Langston left behind him a solemn promise to work soon on the libretto, which was far from completion. The promise was genuine, but his attention soon wandered. A year later, he still groaned under his burden. "I'm still a literary sharecropper," he confessed to Arna Bontemps, "with deadlines from past larcenies to meet."

Needing not only cash but a vacation of sorts, and one preferably in warm weather, he capitalized on Negro History Week and set off early in February on a reading tour that took him first to New Orleans. There he loitered awhile as the city prepared for Mardi Gras, then moved on to Baton Rouge, Jackson, and Nashville, before working his way back to the North via Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, and Maryland. On February 23, he ended his tour in Baltimore; for a fee of $40, he drew on his teaching experience at Atlanta University and the Lab School in Chicago when he addressed the annual convention of the College Language Association, the major predominantly black organization of literary academics, on "Ten Ways to Use Poetry in Teaching." Although his ten ways were somewhat pedestrian, his definition of poetry was generally inspired: "Poetry is rhythm—and, through rhythm, has its roots deep in the nature of the universe; the rhythms of the stars, the rhythm of the earth

-189-

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The Life of Langston Hughes - Vol. 2
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Life of Langston Hughes - I Dream a World *
  • Contents *
  • 1 - Still Here 1941 3
  • 2 - Jim Crow''s Last Stand 1941 To 1943 32
  • 3 - Simple Speaks His Mind 1943 To 1944 61
  • 4 - Third Degree 1944 To 1945 88
  • 5 - Street Scene 1945 To 1947 108
  • 6 - Heart on the Wall 1947 To 1948 128
  • 7 - On Solid Ground 1948 To 1950 146
  • 8 - In Warm Manure 1951 To 1953 189
  • 9 - Out from under 1953 To 1956 223
  • 10 - Making Hay 1957 To 1958 263
  • 11 - You Are the World 1958 To 1960 288
  • 12 - Ask Your Mama! 1960 To 1961 314
  • 13 - In Gospel Glory 1961 To 1963 341
  • 14 - Blues for Mister Backlash 1963 To 1965 364
  • 15 - Final Call 1965 To 1966 386
  • 16 - Do Nothing till You Hear from Me 1966 To 1967 404
  • Afterword 426
  • Abbreviations 436
  • Notes 437
  • Acknowledgments 493
  • Index 499
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