Led On Line
Presentazione - About us
Novita' - What's new
Lededizioni Home Page Ricerca - Search
Catalogo - Catalogue
Per contattarci - Contacts
Per gli Autori - For the Authors
Statistiche - Statistics
Cookie Policy
Privacy Policy

Langston Hughes. Interplay, bebop & hip hop

Adriano Elia


In Langston Hughes’s poetics, the blues assumed a cathartic role in facing adversities, taking the shape of both a declaration of sorrow as well as of a therapy helping to relieve it, often by weakening its tragic elements through irony. To this purpose, Hughes wrote poems that could reproduce the rhythms, melodies and harmonies of the blues, using the music as an accompaniment to his suggestive poetic readings. This paper addresses the interaction of poetry and music in some of Hughes’s works. In particular, we shall focus on the one hand on the issue of the interplay between poet, musicians and public, and on the other on the influence exerted by his readings on a contemporary movement such as hip hop, revealing itself both in formal terms – rhythmic and syncopated lyrics, ideal to be read aloud – and in content, encouraging an assertive ethics aimed at the development of a form of art freed from the white dominant culture.


Langston Hughes; Poetry; Interplay; Bebop; Hip hop.

Full Text:




“Langston Hughes: The Songs on Seventh Street” (2004). https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/langston-hughes-songs-seventh-street (10/10/2019).

“The Most Important Album of the 21st Century: Kendrick Lamar’s ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’”. 2016. The Truth Renaissance, February 18. http://www.thetruthrenaissance.com/journal/2016/1/30/to-pimp-a-butterfly-the-most-important-rap-album-of-the-21st-century (10/10/2019).

“Why rap should share a stage with poetry and jazz”. 2015, November 23. https://theconversation.com/why-rap-should-share-a-stage-with-poetry-and-jazz-49336 (10/10/2019).

Baraka, Amiri. (1966) 1994. “The Myth of a ‘Negro Literature’”. In Within the Circle: An Anthology of African American Literary Criticism from the Harlem Renaissance to the Present. Ed. by Angelyn Mitchell, 165-171. Durham: Duke U.P.

Beauchamp, Megan. 2016. “Kendrick Lamar is the Langston Hughes of Our Generation”. The Kindland, March 14. https://www.thekindland.com/culture/kendrick-lamar-is-the-langston-hughes-of-our-generation-1097;

Bergoglio, Franco. 2007. “Be bop: il suono dello sfollagente”, Jazzitalia, http://www.jazzitalia.net/lezioni/articoli/bebop_sfollagente.asp#.XKM-zNhS-Uk (10/10/2019).

Bonner, Patricia. 1990. “Cryin’ the Jazzy Blues and Livin’ Blue Jazz: Analyzing the Blues and Jazz Poetry of Langston Hughes”. West Georgia College Review 20: 15-28.

Césaire, Aimé. (1956) 1995. Notebook of a Return to My Native Land, Translated by M. Rosello with A. Pritchard, Introduction by M. Rosello. Tarset, Northumberland: Bloodaxe Books.

Chinitz, David. 1996. “Literacy and Authenticity: The Blues Poems of Langston Hughes”. Callaloo 19 (1): 177-192.

De Angelis, Valerio Massimo. 2017. “‘That’s What the / Blues Singers Say’: la meta-poetica del blues di Langston Hughes”. In Una bussola per l’infosfera: Con Ishmael Reed tra musica e letteratura. A cura di Nicola Paladin e Giorgio Rimondi, 147-162. Milano: Agenzia X.

Dinerstein, Joel. 1999. “Lester Young and the Birth of Cool”. In Signifyin’, Sanctifyin’, & Slam Dunking: A Reader in African American Expressive Culture. Ed. by Gena Dagel Caponi, 239-276. Amherst: U. of Massachussets P.

Du Ewa Jones, Meta. 2002. “Jazz Prosodies. Orality and Textuality”. Callaloo 25.1: 66-91.

Edwards, Paul. 2009. How to Rap: The Art & Science of the Hip-Hop MC, Chicago: Chicago Review Press.

Elia, Adriano. 2017. “Riappropriazione della ‘blackness’ in ‘The Song of the Smoke’ di W.E.B. Du Bois”. Annali di Ca’ Foscari. Serie occidentale 51: 43-54.

Elia, Adriano. 2014. “The Languages of Afrofuturism”. Lingue e Linguaggi 12: 83-96.

Eliot, Thomas Stearns. (1919) 1921. “Hamlet and His Problems”. In The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Edwards, Brent. 1998. “The Seemingly Eclipsed Window of Form: James Weldon Johnson’s Prefaces”. In The Jazz Cadence of American Culture. Ed. by Robert O’Meally. New York: Columbia University Press.

Ellison, Ralph. (1959) 1964. Shadow and Act. New York: Random House.

Fargione, Daniela. 2010. “From Langston Hughes’ Not Without Laughter to Langston Hughes’ Piccola America negra: Where’s the Music Gone?” In Translating America: Importing, Translating, Misrepresenting, Mythicizing, Communicating America. A cura di Marina Camboni, Andrea Carosso e Sonia Di Loreto, 678-685. Torino: Otto Editore.

Francescato Simone, “Langston Hughes’ Early Italian Translations and Their Cultural Aspects”. In Translating America: Importing, Translating, Misrepresenting, Mythicizing, Communicating America. A cura di Marina Camboni, Andrea Carosso e Sonia Di Loreto, 638-644. Torino: Otto Editore.

Gates, Jr., Henry Louis. 1979. “Dis and Dat: Dialect and the Descent”. In Afro-American Literature: The Reconstruction of Instruction. Ed. by Dexter Fisher and Robert B. Stepto, 88-119. New York: MLA.

Gates, Jr., Henry Louis. (1988) 2014. The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism. New York: Oxford U.P.

Havelock, Eric A. 1986. The Muse Learns to Write. Reflections on Orality and Literacy from Antiquity to the Present. New Haven/London: Yale U.P.

Huang, Hao. 2011. “Enter the Blues: Jazz Poems by Langston Hughes and Sterling Brown”. Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies XVII (1): 9-44.

Hughes, Langston. (1940) 1993. The Big Sea. New York: Hill and Wang.

Hughes, Langston. 1994a. The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. Ed. by Arnold Rampersad and David Roessel. New York: Vintage Classics.

Hughes, Langston. 2001. The Collected Works of Langston Hughes, Volume 3: The Poems 1951-1967. Ed. by Arnold Rampersad. Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press.

Hughes, Langston, (1926) 1994b. “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”. The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader. Ed. by David Levering Lewis, 94-95. New York: Viking.

Hughes, Langston. 1949. “Simple Declares Be-Bop Music Comes From Bop! Bop! Bop! Mop!”. The Chicago Defender 19 November: 6.

Hughes, Langston. 1941. “Songs Called the Blues”. Phylon (1940-1956) 2 (2): 143-145.

Johnson Patricia and Walter Farrell, Jr, “The Jazz Poetry of Langston Hughes: A Reflection”, Minority Voices 1980: 11-21.

Jones, LeRoi (Amiri Baraka). (1968) 2010. Black Music. New York: Akashi Classics.

Jones, LeRoi (Amiri Baraka). (1963) 2002. Blues People. Negro Music in White America. New York: Harper.

Lanati, Barbara. 1979. Langston Hughes. Blues e poesie. Roma: Newton Compton.

Lenz, Günter H.. 1998. “The Riffs, Runs, Breaks, and Distortions of the Music of a Community in Transition: Redefining African American Modernism and the Jazz Aesthetic in Langston Hughes’ ‘Montage of a Dream Deferred’ and ‘Ask Your Mama’”. Massachusetts Review 44 (1-2): 269-82.

Lowney, John. 2000. “Langston Hughes and the ‘Nonsense’ of Bebop”. American Literature 72 (2): 357-85.

Nielson, Erik. 2012. “A ‘High Tension’ in Langston Hughes’s Musical Verse”. MELUS 37 (4): 165-85.

O’Brien Hokanson, Robert. 1998. “Jazzing it Up: The Be-bop Modernism of Langston Hughes”. Mosaic 31 (4): 61-82.

Ong, Walter. 1982. Orality and Literacy. The Technologizing of the Word. London/New York: Routledge.

Onwuchekwa, Jemie. 1976. Langston Hughes: An Introduction to the Poetry. New York: Columbia University Press.

Otto, Eric 1998. “Jazz in the English Classroom: Langston Hughes’ ‘Theme for English B’ and Bebop Identity Form[ation]”. Teaching American Literature: A Journal of Theory and Practice 1 (1): 17-32.

Owens, Thomas. 1995. Bebop: The Music and Its Players. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Patterson, Anita. 2000. “Jazz, Realism, and the Modernist Lyric: The Poetry of Langston Hughes”. MLQ: Modern Language Quarterly 61 (4): 651-682.

Piccinato, Stefania. 1979. “La letteratura afro-americana in Italia: 1900-1975”. In Saggi sulla cultura afro-americana, a cura di Alessandro Portelli, 337-390. Roma: Bulzoni.

Piccinato, Stefania. 1968. Langston Hughes. Poesie. Milano: Lerici.

Portelli, Alessandro, a cura di. 1979. Saggi sulla cultura afro-americana. Roma: Bulzoni.

Rampersad, Arnold. 1986. The Life of Langston Hughes, Volume I: 1902-1941. Oxford/New York: Oxford U.P.

Rose, Tricia. 1994. Black Noise. Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan U.P.

Rose, Tricia. 2003. “Musica rap e cultura nera oggi”, Ácoma 26 (IX): 119-120.

Rubeo, Ugo. 1987. “Langston Hughes’ Critical Recognition in Italy”. The Langston Hughes Review 6 (1): 13-19.

Toop, David. 1984. The Rap Attack: African Jive to New York Hip Hop. London: South End Press.

Tracy Steven C.. 1981. “To the Tune of Those Weary Blues: The Influence of the Blues Tradition in Langston Hughes’s Blues Poems”. MELUS 8.3: 73-98.

Wright, Richard. 1957. White Man, Listen!. Garden City: Doubleday.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/ling-2020-001-elia

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


Linguæ & - Rivista di lingue e culture moderne
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (06/04/2012 n. 185)
Online ISSN 1724-8698 - Print ISSN 2281-8952

Dipartimento di Scienze della Comunicazione, Studi Umanistici e Internazionali: Storia, Culture, Lingue, Letterature, Arti, Media
Università degli Studi di Urbino Carlo Bo

Editor-in-Chief: Roberta Mullini
Editorial Board: Maurizio Ascari - Stefano Beretta - Antonio Bertacca- Tania Collani - Chiara Elefante - Marina Guglielmi - Maryline Heck - Richard Hillman - Reinhard Johler - Stephen Knight - Cesare Mascitelli - Sonia Massai - Aurélie Moioli - Maria de Fátima Silva - Bart Van Den Bossche 

Editorial Staff: Margaret Amatulli - Alessandra Calanchi - Riccardo Donati - Ivo Klaver  - Massimiliano Morini - Antonella Negri - Luca Renzi

Referee List