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Committee Member Committee Member L_JjAJ^£^ ' CSU Honors Program Director ILxJLA |4( Date b /^l f)*> ' . ^K^-CCA- Date Date Date -/7/ (p/8/o j . College of Arts and Letters."Ain't you heard"?: The Jazz Poetry of Langston Hughes by Kristin Taylor A Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of Requirements of the for CSU Honors Program degree of Honors in the Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. Columbus State University ' Thesis Advisor _ * ' j L- / U- U. .


I remember being fascinated by the realization that I could create music by depressing those keys. However. to complete my core courses at Columbus I State University." she said. day—night. I letter from the Berklee College of of contemporary music Music Boston . rooted power. and its -The Big Sea Introduction It all began with a piano bench. like the earth moving around the music with its sun. day —night. and composed in response to Eaton's text an autobiographical literary essay . "Now. I elected. Thirteen years during my in senior year of high school. because of the high cost of and of living years."Ain't you heard"?: The Jazz Poetry of Langston Hughes Like the waves of the sea coming one after another. making little wooden hammers later. 'This is C. when took my first upper-level English course in the Fall of 2006. so its is the undertow of black heart. . . always one after another. strike strings in the piano's hidden belly. D. E . its rhythm that never betrays you. That fascination never received an acceptance left me. strength like the beat of the human humor. At the age of the four. and after two I intended to transfer to Berklee.a piece of writing that catalyzed my journey toward self-integration after enduring a . I sat next to my first piano teacher. her finger touching each key. which one is F?" Though I touched the incorrect key. in Boston.one of the world's premier institutions for the study and jazz. Despite receiving a generous tuition partial scholarship. moving through the entirety of a C-major scale. night. as she told me names of the keys. . day—forever. where I read Winnifred Eaton's autobiography. Afterward she asked. Me: A Book of critical Remembrance. A instead of F.


I began to think the former would preclude the latter. During the course. I began to look at Hughes's traditionally canonized poetry. indeed.an I immediately became sets my attempts to explain how Hughes I up the collection as a jam session. I quickly became focused on one of his latest Montage of a Dream Deferred (1951)." but poetry collections. none had yet to elucidate the musical qualities of his jazz poetry. Lape explained poetry. When I I took African-American Literature to the poetry II with Dr. fascinated with this idea and then with jam session .devastating traumatic experience - I discovered the transcendence that can result from the intersection of life. such as "The Weary Blues" and "Jazzonia." I soon realized that Hughes intended the collection to represent the poetic equivalent of a musical innovative technique he outlines in his headnote to the collection. for English B. sound jazzy. in fact. was reintroduced of Langston Hughes. and criticism." "Theme and "Harlem. such as the he is often credited with being one of the - if not the first -jazz poet. Noreen Lape in the Spring of 2007. She suggested that my musical background might give me greater insight into the musicality of Hughes's jazz poetry than most critics possess and said I should consider writing my term paper on the topic . In working on my term paper. to communicate how Hughes translated a musical form to the page without losing its inherent qualities in the process. At that point." featuring the often-anthologized poems "Dream Boogie. but I had yet to discover how would I connect my my musical background. in known fact. literature. for his poetry drawn from African-American first folk idioms. I decided to obtain a degree study of literature to in English Literature. The more I analyzed the collection. to me that while many critics have explored Hughes's jazz acknowledging that much of his poetry does. a poet typically associated withjhe Harlem Renaissance and blues and jazz. the more began to see its inherent jazzy . Dr.a project that later developed into this honors thesis.


Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz ( ). but he also wrote two collections of poetry specifically focused on jazz. In short. and Louis Armstrong.qualities and. Harlem a collection that Hughes was influenced by "what [he] heard at Minton's in — a young music coming out of young people — Billy — the male the female of them — the Eckstine and the Holiday- Charlie Christian and Dizzy and Tad and the Monk" (Hughes. Gerry Mulligan. Importantly. and idioms of jazz. Hughes dedicated 1961 his second collection of jazz poetry. jazz grew deep like the rivers. yet he not only wrote individual jazz poems. One. approach for to literary criticism as well as my perception of Hughes. I realized not only that I had found a way through to marry my musical background with music. While Hughes never studied music formally or played a musical instrument. "Jazz" 213)." I had tapped into an unexplored reservoir of knowledge vis-a-vis Hughes's jazz poetry . As I began to compose the paper. my study of literature. to Louis Armstrong whom Hughes described as "the greatest horn player of them all" (Ask). Your analysis seriously impressive. the way in which individual poems in Montage also maintained the rhythms. where "musicians such as Dizzy Gilespie." as well as "the Horace Silver Quintet. the jazz vocal of Lambert. but I also saw that my knowledge As of I could create a very unique niche for myself say in her in the realm of literary criticism. his love of Of course. . Dr. later. trio the Canadian pianist Oscar Peterson. structures. is Montage of a Dream Deferred. even serving as an official for some time). which said I have already mentioned. I fell in literary Hughes had united his appreciation for music with his work as a writer . the singer Dakota Staton. Hughes was a prolific jazz writer.a concoction that ultimately transformed African-American literature.one that changed my own love. "I've been looking around for an explanation sometime now. his attendance at the the collection was heavily influenced by 1960 Newport Jazz Festival (a festival he attended regularly. Lape would like that for later comments on my is essay.


and Ross. and Du Bois found his ideal in propagandism that elevated the black race. II 314-15). and Ray Charles and his group" performed (Rampersad. The the debates during the of these purposes is dependent upon an in-depth analysis of Harlem Renaissance art. While Locke longed to bring together black and white members of the intelligentsia. Alain Locke. the jazz scholar Leonard Feather for MGM" (280). that centered on how African Americans should represent themselves in for it is during this time period that Hughes began writing jazz poetry and proclaimed that the use of jazz in art was an integral part of fulfilling his artistic vision. Du Bois furthered with his speech. One of the greatest African. The First Book of Rhythms to (1954).Americans. "produced by Thus. Vol. such as The Weary Blues with Langston Hughes. suggesting that by giving white audiences cultured . and Famous Negro Music Makers upon sharing it (1955). Still. was highly influential a debate that in when he published The New Negro (1925) - W. jazz in his writing speaks to more than a mere appreciation of jazz for its The twofold purpose of this the idioms of jazz in his poetry thesis is to explain both why Hughes continually returned to and how Hughes was able first to capture those musical idioms through the written word. In what has readings. Vol. we can see that Hughes's focus on jazz in his writing is a direct reflection of his love for jazz in the performative sense. such as The First Book of Jazz (1954).American initiating these artistic debates literary patriarchs. Hughes also performed musical accompaniment of jazz musicians. 279). Hughes also wrote children's literature that focused on the subject of jazz. his poetry to the come to be known as poetry-to-jazz Hughes worked alongside such famous the pianist Phineas figures as Leonard Feather. E. He even recorded poetry- to-jazz albums. suggesting that jazz was so important Hughes that he insisted with the emerging generation of young African. B. "Criteria of Negro Art" (1926). "the II bassist Charlie Mingus and Newborn" (Rampersad.Hendricks. Hughes's extensive use of alluring aural qualities. both men ultimately believed in the promise of so- called high art to bring relief from race issues.


Du Bois that art could solve the race problem . such as boogie-woogie and bebop." into rhythmic dictation.a motif that Hughes verbally riffs upon throughout the collection. I will accomplish my second purpose - to define how Hughes was able to capture the musical idioms of jazz through the written word .American dream . in turn. featuring different speakers Further. jazz emerged as one of the primary sources from which Hughes drew inspiration. I will show how Hughes upon these forms of jazz rhetorically and thematically.and upper-class portrayal of blacks music). Thus.a conviction he comments upon "The Blues I'm Playing. just as jazz musicians would improvise upon a main musical motif throughout a jam session. who collectively provide a composite portrait of 1940s Harlem. Montage of a Dream Deferred. to Locke and Du Bois. help to correct the malicious mistreatment of black Americans. in Lockean and Du Boisian logic a flaw he "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain" (1926). "Dream Boogie. Hughes could not have been more unconcerned with white perceptions of African- American art. as well as literature and come to respect the African. art could. whites would in art (including the visual arts. Hughes's aesthetic ideal was centered on depicting the trying to capture the idioms of their life of the black lower classes and on art. From the outset of the collection. all of the poems focus on the impact of the deferred African. and he certainly did not agree with Locke and in his short story.with a close reading of Hughes's collection of jazz poetry. however. I will demonstrate musically how Hughes remains true . Hughes disapproved artistic portrayals that of any respect garnered for blacks through overlooked lower-class African Americans. Hughes relies upon relies the various forms of jazz. and by transcribing the collection's opening poem." Instead. Hughes. The its collection fulfills its goal to echo the musical jam session poetically through Modernist dialogic structure. in his own art. Because of this artistic aesthetic vision. saw an inherent flaw addresses in his essay. particularly their music.American race.


as historian Nathan asserts. the Harlem Renaissance so often associated with jazz that is almost as though the two have always gone hand-in-hand. stories. house-rent parties. Yet ironically. The pivotal role of Locke's text is even further emphasized by the of the day the movement was known as the a term that has only been applied in "New Negro retrospect Renaissance". Locke's work on the volume "made him the father of the (qtd. '' which features Hughes himself reading several of his poems from Montage light to the musical accompaniment of Charles Mingus and Leonard Feather) to shed structurally. on which types of art fulfilled his It is forum in which Locke voiced his opinions New Negro criteria opinions that . . the Harlem Renaissance considering is when how the movement was centralized within Harlem. into a book that defined with and the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance" (Gates and McKay 955). One mention of the 1920s invokes images of Harlem cabarets. Finally. white as well as black.one of its strongest opposers being Alain Locke. Introduction fact that to writers xi). . The New Negro pulls together "essays. with catalyzing the Harlem Renaissance. aurally. figures of the many key Harlem Renaissance actually shied away from jazz. Many critics and historians credit the publication of Locke's anthology. the silent page to the spoken word.to the qualities of jazz. 1 moving beyond 1 will analyze one of Hughes's poetry-to-jazz recordings ("Dream Montage. black pianists improvising syncopated rhythms. even as he captures them through the language of poetry solely. In fact. and Louis Armstrong performing with his iconic trumpet. poems. The New Negro Huggins (1925).] Harlem Renaissance" Rampersad. in New Negro and the [. /: Representing African Americans: Aesthetic Ideologies in the Harlem Renaissance is From it a modern perspective. and artwork by older as well as incomparable the clarity younger flair writers. on the jazzy nature of the poems within Montage and thematieally.


primitivism. Later impossible. in the essay. American institutions frustrated on the one hand and American ideals progressively that placing the race fulfilled and realized on the other" (990). However. Locke's essay is." but also by the pieces he chose to comprise the volume. In "The New Negro/' intelligent Locke's views on art are largely integrationist. Locke entrusted the emerging artists with carrying out the New Negro agenda and creating a place for blacks in American society at large . He considers uniting white and African-American intelligentsia to be a pivotal component in finding a solution to the race problem. By analyzing Locke's anthology. in essence. Locke was resistant to jazz. and even sexual promiscuity." rather than one that wallowed caricatures and minstrelsy (991 in Old Negro stereotypes reinforced by Uncle Tom ).are represented not only by his famous introductory essay to the anthology. maintaining that it undermined the New Negro agenda because of its negative associations with lower-class life. more achievement. Ultimately. we can examine his artistic vision and better understand his opposition to jazz. the spark that ignited the debate on how blacks should represent themselves in art - a debate we have we learn come that to associate with the Harlem Renaissance.a place he believed could only be created by putting the "Negro's" proverbial best foot forward so as to be accepted by the white masses. he asserts "that the trend of Negro advance [as] wholly separatist" is concluding that "the choice but between is not between one way for the Negro and another way for the rest. Locke believed problem within positive the larger context of societal issues allowed "race pride to be a healthier. . 'The New Negro. He bemoans at "the fact that the more and representative elements of the two race groups have so many points got quite out of vital touch with one another" as "the most unsatisfactory feature of our present stage of race relationships" (988). in reading The New Negro.


while Locke could have this type of insight into the value of the spirituals and the continuation of their form. therefore. Looking it is always in sublimated forms and with a white audience Find mind. such and the ballad. The the black New Negro contains his poem. and when the it anthologized writers do draw on traditionally black forms. "Tableau. His poem. as many critics point out. we James Weldon Johnson featured. folk art is always despised In "The Negro and rejected at first. Anglo forms and traditions strongly overpower the poems. and come firml\ into the context of formal music" (199). but generations after. or the black sermon. Even when jazz does in make an appearance.toward the future.speakers who prosper despite obstacles. while Johnson used colloquial forms and speech patterns dialect because he found in writing "The Creation.a folk idiom that would presumably not threaten white audiences and agenda 1 is. who look optimistically - at times naively . who find harmony in relationships with whites or overcome racism with passive resistance. featuring characters or . Locke venerates the form of the spirituals and explains "have escaped the lapsing conditions and the fragile vehicle of folk art. and Further. of course. As the works within The New Negro anthology content to appeal demonstrate. "The Creation. Ironically." just like the spirituals (199).American culture that could undermine Locke's agenda. "In its disingenuous simplicity. Works by Countee Cullen as the sonnet anthology draw on Anglo forms and idioms. it flowers again and transcends the level of its origins" (199).8 Although the ideas of Locke's essay are integrationist they actually in theory. when put into practice." he refused in the to use it comic and derogatory. He goes on to say. . In fact. but not so "Negro" as to leave the white reader with a negative view of African." an essay from The New Negro. in the "Negro Youth Speaks" section of the anthology. Many of the poems portray the African-American experience idealistically. has since "flowerfed] again and transcendjed] the level of its origin." which mirrors the form of sermon . not a threat to the New Negro either. become assimilationist. tends to be forms like the spirituals Few works in the volume mirror the folk idiom of jazz because of its association with primitivism and unlearned improvisation at the time. he never extends this insight to jazz -the folk art of his lifetime that he plays a part in "despis[ing] and reject[ing]" . the poetry Locke deemed appropriate must be "Negro" enough in to white audiences interested in race issues.which." with that they Spirituals.


But there is also a second." a sonnet with a speaker who exclaims: Oh. Washington. Deep my wrathful bosom sore and raw. Cullen hints at the assimilationist philosophy of Booker T. who in his famous "Atlanta Exposition Address.that the poet forced to suppress violence so as to protect himself from the white man. but not too much as the speaker is willing to repress his anger for the sake of social acceptability. Cullen's poem is a prime example of the type of idealism found in The New Negro. "|1 locked arm in arm" ( 1 ). we are presented with poems such as "White Houses.its ballad stanzas. Instead. (lines 9-14) These lines can be interpreted on two levels. "[o]blivious" (9) to those who are "[ijndignant that these two should dare / [i]n unison to walk" (6-8). even sacrifice. boys could be "oblivious" to "indignant" onlookers The anthology also features poems by Claude McKay. portrays a " black boy and [a] white" (line 2) who are able to walk together.6)." urged his fellow African . And find in it the superhuman power of your law! To hold me to the letter Oh must I keep my heart inviolate Against the potent poison of your hate. Considering the historical backdrop of lynchings and Jim that the Crow during the Harlem Renaissance. One can is certainly argue that the poem has an underlying subversive message . more literal reading that suggests the speaker chooses to exemplify passive resistance for the greater good. Home to Harlem (1928).sexual urges. if it requires self- This double-voiced strategy allows him to craft a poem that provokes a white readership. the very idea seems absurd (9. none of which contain the primitivism that will later pervade his novel. which demonstrates the effects of the rhythmic surges of African music and dance and of instinctual - even animalistic . In this regard. I must search in for wisdom every hour.


and unresentful people that the world has seen" (595-96).coupled with would certainly stay within the paradigms of the his use of the Anglo sonnet form - New Negro agenda. Too" (1925). that [they] and [theirj families [would] be surrounded by the most patient. like too much reading all the time when [he] was a kid. law-abiding. Hughes."" The speaker transcends time and space to represent the collective voice of blacks throughout history and uses the world's rivers to assert the proud. the agenda guiding Locke's editorial decisions are of particular significance. Whitmanesque tradition "The Negro Speaks of Rivers. faithful. I . Adhering to Locke's standards of high featured poetry includes works such as 'The art. 'I had no intentions of throwing that one away'" (Vol. Big Sea 97). I when Abe Lincoln its went down to New Orleans. I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep. "Mazzonia" (1923). Hughes's Negro Speaks of Rivers" (1921). Hughes decided to throw a box of . saying. is clear how McKay's use of Washingtonian philosophy . the S. draws on an Anglo. I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above heard the singing of the Mississippi it. deep appreciation for the work of Walt Whitman. unwavering place of the Negro. they could "be sure in the future. (lines 4-7) 2 which Hughes worked as he sailed toward Africa for the first and only time his books into the sea because "they seemed too much like everything [he] had known in the past [. Looking back over the course of history. the speaker says: bathed in the I Euphrates when dawns were young. 72). as described in romantic prose" (Hughes. Hughes admitted he "saved his copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. the ship on in his life. But Rampersad tells us that in an earlier draft of The Big Sea. As Washington it romanticizes the conditions of slavery in his speech and argues for passivity. and I've seen muddy bosom Aboard turn all golden in the sunset. .10 Americans to "mak[e] friends in every manly way of the people of all races by whom [they] [we]re surrounded" and told whites that by doing the same. in and "I.].S. Malone. as in the past. When reading Hughes's poetry in the volume. like life isn't. who had a very particularly Leaves of Grass.


Hughes's opts for a Romantic. As the poem closes with the line. "I. who. again drawing on the Anglo tradition of Whitman. But again.11 What is noticeably absent from this journey through time." the speaker portrays how the white man is ashamed of him: "They send me But in the to eat in the kitchen / When company comes" (lines 3-4). who sings of America but to the who actually comprises it ( 1 He is no longer a figure in the background. Too. second stanza. too. and sing in "Song of Myself. Too" is a beautiful one of hope. in the vein of the New Negro agenda. Unlike the Romantics. In the beginning of "I. never explains to us the cost at grown so deep - the awful circumstances from which he has drawn his inner- strength. he boldly asserts in the first line. however. Despite the fact that the speaker is "the darker brother" (line 2). too. his strength is not drawn solely from nature." rings with a similar message. The speaker foresees that the shame will no longer be on the black man man for failing to see for so long "how beautiful I am" (16). / I'll be at the table / When company comes" but on the white (8-10). Transcendental speaker. which these rivers represent. saying. 7). 6. is the association that many of these rivers have with slavery. the speaker autonomously asserts in the final line of the poem that his "soul has grown deep like the rivers" (10). "I. who proclaimed myself. it is one that envisions a very quick and seamless . Pharaoh forced him all to "rais[e] the pyramids" above the Nile. idyllic "I." "I celebrate myself (line 1 ). the poems takes a swift turn as the speaker announces his hopeful vision for the future. am America. but a person prominently and proudly displayed in the foreground. although the message of "I. while focusing on which his soul has his race's inherent connection to nature. watched the Mississippi "turn golden" while in a state In an instance of Lockean idealism. The white sold man took him from his "hut near the Congo" and him into slavery. Too. and he of captivity (4. confined metaphorical hidden kitchens of American society. "Tomorrow." he asserts his place as not only one 8). but also from the ability to transcend unspeakable communal trauma. sing America" (1 ).


Granted. who was known for drawing on Anglo poetic forms. the stanza is Its AABB that rhyme scheme and to adherence to iambic tetrameter more closely resembles a poem might be attributed someone that is like Cullen. and later after the fourth stanza. Although the speaker describes jazz. it riff is improvised. silver tree! / Oh. "Oh. Because these couplets appear as interjections between the larger stanzas." "shining. "Jazzonia" maintains an noticeably different from most of Hughes's other jazz poetry. Looking at the various presentations of this couplet. there are some jazzy qualities to the poem." and "singing" in different ways as the poem progresses. "O. we can see that Hughes uses and reuses the adjectives "silver. because the previous one. silver of the soul!" (7-8). as Hughes verbally improvises upon the poem's opening lines. and of course. and a single musician might play an improvised musical riff (the couplets) between those verses. (lines 3-6) not jazzy. For example. We can see this quality in the slight verbal . as Hughes writes in the second stanza: In a Harlem cabaret Six long-headed jazzers play A dancing girl whose eyes are bold Lifts high a dress of silken gold." interspersing variations on them between the longer stanzas of the poem / (1-2). singing rivers tree! Oh. he writes. Hughes writes. "Oh. while it may be similar to the will never be exactly the same. The only anthologized poem by Hughes obvious Anglo influence and is that focuses on jazz. than the type of work typically associated with Hughes. shining Oh. one can imagine them as they might be heard in a jazz performance. the band would play the verse of the song (the stanzas). shining tree! / rivers of the soul!" (14-15).12 transformation from a state of racial prejudice to racial acceptance. after the second stanza (quoted above). even if "[t]omorrow" is not meant to be interpreted as a literal passage of time (8). shining rivers of the soul. "Jazzonia" describes a jazz performance.


to both. while it is determine if Hughes ever submitted poems that is like "Danse Africaine" at least to either of these magazines. Thus.13 variation Hughes employs is in the couplets throughout "Jazzonia." Blues'" focus "I.characteristics that American folk culture as reflected in the forms of the blues would unquestionably challenge Locke's criteria for New Negro art." the poems "Danse Africaine" and "The Weary on primitive representations of black music or on lower-class Africanand jazz ." But even this type of poetic improvisation tame for Hughes. I 101 ). I would maintain possible that Hughes submitted "The Weary Blues" considering that both magazines were considering submissions simultaneously. Opportunity magazine publicized at the that they to sponsor a literary contest. and the poem overall lacks the qualities of jazz for that Hughes's jazz poetry is typically known . Too.'"' and "Jazzonia. Contemporaneous were going work on the Survey Graphic. Arnold Rampersad informs us that "Langston made sure that Locke had almost a complete file of his poems for the special Negro number of the Survey Graphic' (Rampersad. What's more. entitled "Harlem: Mecca of the to Locke's New Negro" (When Harlem 115). Vol. I for certain if Locke purposefully chose historical evidence points to exclude Hughes's folk poetry this conjecture. While what is it is interesting enough to consider the message of Hughes's anthologized poems. In contrast to works like "The Negro Speaks of Rivers. impossible Hughes's "The Weary Blues" won to category of poetry (114). the same year The New Negro was published. the use of black vernacular. While one cannot say anthology. and urban locale.inherent jazz rhythms. . that are absent even more telling in Hughes's case are his poems from the anthology - works like "Danse Africaine" (1922) and "The Weary Blues" (1925). in the would argue that that toward David Levering Lewis informs us Locke's publication of The New Negro is the product of his work on a Harlem edition of Survey Graphic magazine. both of which were published prior to or in 1925. When winners were announced in the 1925 Opportunity dinner.


analyzing they do not in some of Hughes" s absent poems can give with the why fit New Negro agenda. would be nearly impossible it for Locke to exclude jazz completely from his anthology. considering that was published during the height of the Jazz Age. all The most obvious connection between of Hughes's non-anthologized poems is that they draw on black folk idioms like the blues and jazz and even the musical influence of the primitive - all of which contradict in New Negro philosophy." it is in sublimated forms and with a white audience the in mind. an article from "Jazz the New York Times in the 1920s states: is to real music exactly what most of the 'new poetry. the fact that all of Hughes's aforementioned works were already published or being in composed by 1925 (Hughes began working on "The Weary Blues" 1923) makes one hypothesize that works like "Danse Africaine" or "The Weary Blues" did not appear in The New Negro because they were contrary is to New Negro philosophy. This idea of jazz being associated with a lack of education is echoed again when Jed Rasula points out. is to real poetry. Still. and improvisation was regarded as the could not read music" last resort of those who ( 1 58). in Rasula 170). Any editor will find that his work guided by his own agenda. As we have seen. With that us greater understanding as to in mind. but of incompetents" (qtd. easy to understand Locke's resistance to jazz based on way many whites perceived it during the Harlem Renaissance.14 Thus." going on to say that "both were the work "not of innovators.' so-called. despite his opposition. Locke carefully navigates this dilemma by distinguishing cultured jazz of high folks. For example. and Locke would be no exception. It is as it does with "Jazzonia. The fact that the New Negro agenda is centered on the role of the associations with black intellectual explains why Locke was it so reluctant to accept jazz and its ignorance. society of which he approves from jazz of the low-down which he believes contradicts the New . even when jazz does make an appearance The New Negro. "It was also widely assumed that black musicians had no formal training.


. even leaving it to "white orchestras" to "demonstrat[e] the finer possibilities of jazz music" and using the voice of a white orchestra conductor to validate jazz's artistic value (221 looks ). to quote Serge Koussevitzsky. But the average thing and the wayside inn. he diminishes the importance of an inherently blaek art form and white ultimately constructs an entire ideology that appropriates Anglo forms and appeals to the majority. who would it seek amusement from jazz those in non-cultured venues. In an essay from the The New Negro anthology entitled "Jazz at Home. ironically overlooking the fact that is low-down folks who created jazz. Rogers has expressed an appreciation for jazz only for victims and to escape the when it is in upper-class venues. And later Rogers says about jazz venues: a certain The cabaret of better type provides intellectual. . j is an important contribution to modern musical literature" (221 ). Rogers down upon the lower classes. is much the substitute for the saloon The tired longshoreman." and artists that while the "pioneer work in the artistic development of jazz was done by Negro to [. . A. the porter. Rogers echoes New Negro philosophy when he says that "|m|usically jazz has a great future" because "[i]t is rapidly being sublimated" by "famous jazz orchestras. the housemaid and the poor elevator boy in search of recreation. . that are now demonstrating the finer possibilities of He goes on [. difficulties of financial backing" means jazz has "had to yield ground white orchestras of the type of the Paul Whiteman and Vincent Lopez organizations jazz music" (221 ). . But in so doing. (223) Clearly. the artist Bohemianism for the Negro too and the well-to-do." J. the gambler and the demi-monde who have come there eyes of the police. the conductor of the Boston Symphony at the time: "Jazz .]. seeking in jazz the tonic for weary nerves and muscles are only too apt to find the bootlegger.15 Negro agenda.


As the poem closes." opening. slow . As we literally read the poem. The slow beating of the tom-toms Low Slow Stirs .the literal center . . as Hughes writes: for example. when the listener is forced finally to concede to his primitive impulses. but explicit (7.both with Hughes's indented lines as well as metaphorically. it gives us a clearer perspective through which to view Hughes's jazzier poems that did not appear in The New Negro anthology. . When this permeation is complete. turns to the primitive that Rogers eschews from its very The low beating of the tom-toms.speaks impose upon the to the animalistic lack of control that such was believed as to listener. underscoring the intrinsic connection that the primitive was believed to have to the sexual.16 Considering that Rogers's essay adheres to Locke's agenda. 1 lughes positions the line in such a way that it seems though the tom-tom music itself is the one issuing the command. .8). as the tom-tom music permeates the listener until it reaches his core. which is positioned very near to the middle . By the time the "night-veiled girl" who "[w]hirls softly" enters the poem. Dance! (lines 1-6) The imperative ancestral music in the sixth line . Further.of the poem on the page. but we also arrive at the furthest indented line of the poem. Hughes's lines mirror the continued music: And the tom-toms beat. one is unable to overlook the sensual imagery and hypnotic rhythm of the third and fourth lines. "Danse Africaine. we not only reach the imperative of the sixth line. we are drawn further and further inward . . . the sexual is no longer implied."Dance!" . low your blood.


the poem draws on the musical form of the blues while also using the vernacular so as to portray the life of a common "Negro" musician as he is seen through the eyes of the poem's speaker. we imagine beating. As the title suggests. heard a Negro play. low beating of the tom-toms your blood. New Negro agenda of making a respected place in society for the "The Weary Blues. as Hughes uses the second-person pronoun "your. even as our stirred in the final line and we close the book of poetry. (12-15) Stirs Since the tom-tom music has already made its impact on the speaker. we are left with the impact of the music extending to the reader.'" now one of Hughes's most anthologized poems. the tom-tom is still asserting its power in our core.17 And And the the tom-toms beat. Hughes suggests that the music's impact for is pervasive enough blood within is to continue beyond the poem's composition and the act of reading it. Rocking back and I forth to a mellow croon. but more or English of a somewhat alienated African American intellectual (121). still that somewhere its pages. works against the New Negro agenda by presenting the idea that an intellectual could be drawn in helplessly by the blues. Consider the opening lines in which the speaker says: Droning a drowsy syncopated tune. Ultimately. promoting the connection of primitive music to animalistic instinct would only black undermine the intellectual. the voice of a blues singer is first being a result of the fact that "the black folk less "standard" framed by the slightly colloquial. James Smethurst points out that there are inherent separations between the speaker and the musician. . however. For Locke." for the time in the first poem (15).


(lines 1-8) a bluesy feel even to the intellectual's retrospective account of the musician's- performance. "Ain't got nobody is world. Tracy writes: C 1 23 2 3 I got de weary blues 4 4 1 234 123 And 4 4 I can't be satisfied F 12 1 3 Got de weary blues 234 G 1 234 12 3 And 4 I can't be satisfied 12 4 I 1 3 ain't happy no mo' 234 1234 that I C 1234 And wish had died. / Ain't got nobody but ma self* (lines 19-20). critic of Hughes's blues poetry. but as Smethurst maintains. . portrays just how closely the musician's song adheres to the blues. (Tracy 76-77) .18 Down on Lenox Avenue By the other night the pale dull pallor of an old gas light He He To There is did a lazy sway sway . while the speaker obviously influenced by the blues. who says. he does not replicate the authentic blues form the musician uses in his performance. is certainly a " 'standard' English" quality to the speaker's words (121). almost as there if he is attempting to parrot the blues idiom. the tune o' those Weary Blues. I chord progression. . usually a twelve-bar form in 4/4 time with a 1. The speaker does in all this not use the vernacular like the musician. Analyzing the second instance of the musician's use of the blues in lines 25-30. Steven Tracy. IV. did a lazy . . . V. Further.


then G. and back to C for the final two to bars).only his observer. he uses C. / He slept like a rock or a man that's dead" (lines 33-35). 4 sequence of beats) and the IV. Hughes employs both I. we can how the blues musician remains true to the blues form." But much like the speaker of "Danse Africaine. as we see from the opening of the poem. The degree to which the musician on his retrospective permeates the speaker's mind account of the performance. C. Tracy provides us with a generalized example of how poem could F. Smethurst observes that . insider. in the example. . which understand is the most basic blues chord progression). I chord progression (as found in the movement from the C chord to F. for his perspective merges with is that of the musician. as he says in the third line. The second separation between the speaker and the musician is that "the speaker of the poem is both an insider and an outsider" (Smethurst 121). demonstrated by the poem's when the speaker has clearly moved from relaying what he observed during the musician's performance to relaying what he imagines the musician does after the performance: "The singer stopped playing and went to bed / While the Weary Blues echoed through his head. V. 2. the speaker is not the musician himself." he is drawn further and further inward by the musician's song as the poem progresses. however. the twelve-bar form (with the twelve repetitions of the 1. He is an outsider because. true to the blues. is also revealed in the influence of the blues . 3. the speaker enters into the music and by the end of the poem so bound up after the with the bluesman that the speaker is inside the singer's bedroom (and head) is show is over" (121). be chorded (since C major is the most basic musical key signature. It should be the noted that we can never known for certain which chords Hughes intended accompany the poem - if any. G. Through Tracy's example. The speaker's insight into the musician's psyche final lines. while the speaker has only provided a pale imitation. "I heard a Negro play.One can see that. and he eventually becomes an ".


particularly the degree to which black art was often considered inferior simply because of the color of the artist's skin. of the preservation of Beauty. it is likely of folk culture and the glorification of a lower-class musician in Harlem would be enough to undermine the New Negro agenda. With unmistakable echoes of Keats. "The Criteria of Negro Art. is as the one great vehicle of universal understanding" (782). which he says should be used "not as a scientist seeking truth. of the realization of Beauty. Du lists the first of these methods as Truth. which used "not for sake of an ethical sanction but as the one . he was concerned with the degree to which African Americans judged their order to validate the own art by white standards and needed the approval of white artist. is The second method Goodness. E. turning him away from the call for high art and interracial connections amongst the intelligentsia as they are presented in The New Negro. just as the blues has possessed the poem's speaker." given at a dinner hosted by the NAACP in Like Locke. and we must use in this work all the methods Bois that men have used before" ("Criteria" 782). critics in work of a black Du Bois calls for approval of the artist for his own sake: "Thus it is the bounden duty of black America to begin this great work of the creation of Beauty. but as one upon highest whom Truth eternally thrusts itself as the handmaid of imagination.possessing the dangerous ability to draw in Locke's intelligent reader. Bois weighed into this aesthetic With a similar mindset as Locke. with his speech. Du debate 1926. Locke maintains that portraying the African-American experience way that is palatable to white audiences "should in turn prove the key to that revaluation of the Negro which must precede or accompany any considerable further betterment of race relationships" ("New" 993). B.20 When we that the use consider "The Weary Blues" in conjunction with Locke's agenda. Du Bois was concerned with the perception whites had of African Americans. But the poem poses an even greater threat . But more importantly. After in a all. W.


jazz. Yolande. Jimmie Lunceford. was deeply in love with the jazz musician.]. Du Bois's distaste for jazz is evident in the comments he made about biography of his daughter's beau.' In any case. to propaganda entrusts the that allows people to "believe with He "new young artists" "fight[ing] their way to freedom" through propagandism . As Lewis summarizes the situation: [Du Bois said.. Du Bois wants favorably represents African Americans. David Levering Lewis informs us that Du Bois's daughter. Lunceford might develop into 'a fine man but that is yet to be learned. But I do care when propaganda (782-83) confined to one side while the other is stripped and silent. who was a jazz musician. certainly would not align with Du Bois's call it does not align with Locke's New Negro agenda. but for Du Bois. just as negative stereotypes.] 'I am not taking Jimmie very seriously' [. he wants for blacks the same rights white blood divine. What Du Bois disapproves of is the unjust disproportion between the amount of art art that that favors whites and the amount that favors blacks.21 true method of gaining sympathy and human interest" (782). with for propaganda.. is to define art as propaganda is is to sacrifice authenticity. the loss less important than what he feels gained from casting the African American all its solely in a positive light. infallible and holy" (783). With these definitions in mind. Du Bois then famously proclaims: Thus all Art is propaganda and ever must be. yet Du Bois objected to Yolande's marriage to him. despite the wailing of the purists. 1 stand in utter shamelessness and say that whatever art I have for writing has been used always for propaganda for gaining the right of black folk to love and enjoy. Of course.by no longer allowing their "worst side" to be "shamelessly emphasized" (783). Thus. I do not care a damn is for any art that is not used for propaganda. In his Pulitzer Prize-winning Du Bois. such a union .


by its very nature. he says. which stood in stark contrast to that of Locke and Du Bois. we can preferences. According to Hughes. In the essay. He it is never taught to see that beauty" (1311). the desire to pour racial individuality into the mold of American standardization. Du Bois longed for Yolande to marry (and she did) Countee Cullen who.both of which contradicted his call for propaganda. and thus. idiotic than to see 'Nothing. In perhaps find links to his artistic Du Bois's marital preferences for his daughter. For for Hughes.' she [Yolande] was told. Indubitably. as is Du Bois. he associated jazz with the lower class and ignorance . Hughes entered Artist the debate in 1926 when he published his famous essay "The Negro Hughes's also explains and the Racial Mountain" in The Nation. was more 'disheartening and tastes. . ." so it becomes "difficult [. Not only does this essay present aesthetic view. "white comes to be unconsciously a symbol of all virtues. Hughes develops the extended metaphor of the racial mountain." and he maintains that it is this mountain that "stand[s] in the way of any its Negro art in America** (1311). good art cannot be propaganda. Both Locke and Du Bois were great . and to be as little Negro and as much American true as possible. unfortunately for Yolande. the racial mountain has most prominent hold on the middle and upper classes of African Americans. two human beings without cultivated to earn a living locking without trained abilities and without power love. Hughes sought forge his own identity as an African-American artist. to Locke and Du Bois. but it Hughes's decision to use jazz so copiously in his poetry. For these groups. which he defines as the "urge within the race toward whiteness. themselves together and trying to live on (Biography 108) Instead.] for an artist born in such a home to interest himself in interpreting the beauty of his own people. was actually homosexual (108). as In creating his aesthetic ideologies in opposition to it does for Locke. it cannot represent the upper classes and the intelligentsia.22 was unthinkable.


. As Hughes would E. for such distinguished company" (Miller 29). "My earliest memories of written words I [.] We . Seeing no hope of overcoming the racial mountain amongst the middle and upper classes. in Rampersad. and jazz is their child. the one who is not afraid to be himself. in Rampersad Vol. B. Hughes sees in the lower class the hope of those of black art who are not ashamed of their blackness. flower in the literary success of his youth. . They furnish a wealth of colorful. later recall.. had the opportunity to meet wondering. distinctive material for any artist because they still hold their own individuality in the face of American standardizations. as for a long time their more intellectual brethren were. Hughes's essay becomes a call to action in which he. But Hughes also includes himself create movement he initiates: "We younger Negro artists who now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame.. We also know that when Locke "asked visit Hughes. Hughes writes: These common people are not afraid of spirituals. younger generation of black in the artists with the task of advancing his artistic vision.American Like the writings of Locke and too. When Hughes. [. "What would say? Du Bois. Hughes went on to create an artistic ideology in which he separated himself completely from Locke and Du Bois. the young poet declined fearfully because he did not think he was prepared Still. Hughes turns to "the low-down folks. the so-called common element" who "do not particularly care whether they are like white folks or anybody else" ("Negro Artist" 1312). 53). charges the Du Bois. race.23 literary patriarchs for Hughes and were influential parts of his childhood.] were those of W. And perhaps these its common people will give to the world truly great Negro artist. Hughes was "terrified" (53). He recalls I What should I I do? How could I act — not to appear as dumb to as I felt myself to be?" (qtd. Vol.. and in that hope lies the future and the advancement of the African. (1312) Thus. 19). beginning to Du Bois and the Bible" (qtd.


the eternal in a white- tom-tom beating world . "The Blues I'm Playing. if Hughes would be able Locke and to convince "the colored near- intellectual" (a thinly veiled reference to Du Bois) of the value of jazz. Hughes "attempts of the colored near-intellectual" as he vies for the acceptance of folk idioms in art through a fictionalized portrayal of the divergent views of high and low art as they were debated in the Harlem Renaissance (1314). strong as we know how." in the Negro soul — the tom-tom of revolt against weariness it is . In "The Negro Artist.24 build our temples for tomorrow. Hughes saw writing the lower class's music into poetry as a way to open the door Star. Many critics argue that "The Blues I'm Playing" is Hughes's critique of the artist-patron relationship. Indeed. free within ourselves" (1314)." one of Hughes's short to penetrate the closed ears stories from The Ways of White Folks. for greater acceptance of jazz. in Rampersad. . (1314). His use of "we" underscores the reasons why we can view "The art. Although such folk was often condemned by black intellectuals. don't think jazz needs it. such as Locke and Du Bois. Vol II 280). seem to" (qtd. the story portrays the artist-patron relationship in a manner so reminiscent of his own relationship with . he believed it would be through In his own jazz poetry (1314). This statement also aligns perfectly with Hughes's proclamation in "The Negro Artist": "Let the blare of Negro jazz bands and the bellowing voice of Bessie Smith singing Blues penetrate the closed ears of the colored near-intellectual until they listen and perhaps understand" (1314)." Hughes calls jazz "one of the inherent expressions of Negro life in America. As Hughes himself said in an article in the Toronto "Jazz gives poetry a much wider I following and poetry brings jazz that greater respectability but most people people seem to think it needs. Considering how Hughes viewed jazz. Thus. and we stand on top of the mountain. Negro Artist" as an explanation of Hughes's reasoning behind his own Jazz became for Hughes the means of fulfilling his own artistic vision. art no wonder that it takes on such a pivotal role in his poetry.


while usually concluding that it is merely an act of distancing on Hughes's In The Big Sea. This manner in which Hughes gives Mrs. to explain. unfortunately. The Ways of White Folks was originally published in 1934 . "Blues" 12) - in essence drawing her closer to white standards of art .Mason wanted Hughes folklore. But. fiction than even allowing him could in advance his own aesthetic vision more unabashedly through I he essays such as "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain. while still allowing him to hide himself (and Mason) behind his 3 I art. Seemingly. but unlike Mrs. I was only an American Negro Even in his autobiography.25 Charlotte Osgood Mason that the similarities are hardly coincidental.an move that many critics have attempted part. would also propose that the story can be interpreted as Hughes's commentary on to the artistic debates taking place during the Harlem Renaissance. ended because of divergent aesthetic views. we learn that Hughes's and Mason's relationship. Ellsworth. he never actually refers to her by name. I did not feel the rhythms of the primitive surging through me. who wants 1 "sublimate" Oceola (Hughes. "Negro Artist" 1314). Ellsworth. where Hughes discusses his relationship with Charlotte Osgood Mason. The Big Sea. who represents the "colored near-intellectual[s]" like Locke and interpretation also accounts for the Du Bois (Hughes.a mere three years following the final termination of his four- year relationship with Mason in 1931." will argue that in "The Blues I'm Playing. to draw his inspiration from Africa rather than from African- American which Hughes resisted: She wanted me to be primitive and know and feel the intuitions of the primitive. . recreating the dynamic of their relationship only in fictitious terms. like Oceola's and Mrs. always protecting her anonymity. the separation from Mason afforded Hughes the distance necessary to write critically about the exploitative nature of Mason as a patron. to Ellsworth's." Hughes embodies his (his literary own aesthetic ideals within the character of Oceola proximate) and places her in contradistinction to Mrs. and so 3 I could not live and write as though I did. Ellsworth an artistic artistic ideology that is the antithesis of Mason's .


"Slave" 19).Anne is herself an artist who feeds her obsession with the Negro art in her own artistic creations (Hughes. has a connection to the primitive (20). Mason's ideology actually aligns more closely with of Anne Carraway in "Slave on the Block. however. preferences of the two fictional Predictably. In "The Blues I'm Playing. Unlike Mason. And was not what she wanted me to be. the reversal of the patron figure's aesthetic ideology can be viewed in an entirely new light - as allowing Hughes to conflate two types of social commentary within one draw attention to story. She is is "a boy as black as all the Negroes they'd ever known put together" and. Thus. Hughes creates the analogy between Mrs. (Big Sea 325) that Interestingly. Ellsworth and the "colored near-intellectuals" artistic and Oceola and himself through his carefully chosen characters. had loved the surface of Africa and the rhythms of Africa — but I was not I I was Chicago and Kansas City and Broadway and Harlem. she hires a black boy named Luther to be a servant in her home with the sole intention of making him the object of her painting of a slave on the block. For example. the fact that Hughes chose it to create a direct parallel between the character. Mrs. Mrs." Hughes flaw in Locke's and is able to what he believes is the inherent Du Bois's aesthetic ideals: the notion that art can resolve the race problem. Ellsworth in "The Blues I'm Playing. while also speaking problematic nature of the artist-patron relationship. Ellsworth's artistic tastes lean toward the classical end of the continuum. therefore. viewing her ." another story from The Ways of White Folks. who appropriated the artistic focus of the artists she supported . and she abhors Oceola's equally predictable love of jazz and the blues. makes seem all the more significant that he reverses the ideological standpoint in the case of Mrs. waiting fascinated with Luther because he to be sold. and his patron.26 —who Africa. Anne. Ellsworth and Oceola personify the divergent voices of the to the Harlem Renaissance debates.imposing her own artistic ideals of primitivism upon their primitive by "cop[ying]" art . Mason." If Mrs.


poems about nature. . Hughes . she wondered. Oceola herself. for Oceola to have a studio full of white and colored people every Saturday night [. Ellsworth interviews Oceola determine whether she wants to act as her patron. Oceola's "tomtom-like music" would counter mention of "portraits that really that vision ("Blues" 111). In fact. contrary to the Lockean and Du Boisian folks" visions.27 patronage of Oceola as a way of sublimating puts it: Oceola's primitive tastes in music and.] still believed in art of the old school. Mrs. who holds as supreme "the work of propagating and encouraging Beauty" ("Truth" 307)." one can hear echoes of "in keeping with genius" (1 10) to align one's self with the Locke and Du Bois (110). . portraits that really and truly looked like people. Oceola is herself a literal representation of the type of "low-down whom Hughes validates in "The Negro to Artist and the Racial Mountain. And in the and truly looked like people [and] poems about nature" (110).American artist and what type of art is appropriate for the emerging young artisan who shoulders the responsibility of representing the black race. music that had soul in it. As Hughes Mrs. we hear the voice of Du Bois. Ellsworth [. Was it in keeping with genius." Early in the story. writes: which gives us a clear picture of Oceola's family background and upbringing. ultimately. Ellsworth's views of "the dignity of art. To be is Lockean vision of reuniting "the more groups [who] have at intelligent and representative elements of the two race so many points got quite out of vital touch with one another" ("New" 988). and thus.] and dancing to the most tomtom-like music she had ever heard coming out of a grand piano? ("Blues" 110-111) One can truly see the manner in which this passage mirrors the debates of the Harlem Renaissance as it contemplates the role of the African. and Hughes recounts for us snippets of that conversation. not syncopation. . Certainly in Mrs. . And she felt the dignity of art.


even . Used to play for all the lodge turn-outs. Hunter's white. . Mr. Her unquestioning reliance upon the white artistic perspective parallels the way in which Hughes critiques many of his contemporaries for their longings to be white . and more valid. we see a clear critique of. .an unmistakable echo of Hughes's statement that "jazz is their child" as he discusses the "low-down folks" ("Negro Artist" 1312). Ellsworth (100). Sometimes her .a word that "comes to be unconsciously a symbol of all virtues" ("Negro Artist" 131 1 ) — and to uphold white aesthetics in their art. . . While Hughes embodies pointed jabs at his artistic ideal within Oceola. They are certainly "not afraid of the spirituals" . You could organ get the best roast pig in Her mother used to play the in church. . is literally the child of "the so-called common element" . her mama played that. as embodied in Oceola. to her by Ormond Hunter.the artistic philosophies of Locke and Du Bois through the character of Mrs. (104). we see that Oceola's mother and step-father are. From these passages. and when the deacons bought a piano after the big revival. ("Blues" 104) We later read that "she and her mama and step-papa settled down in Houston. "Blues" 105). One of the first examples of this type of critique appears through Mrs.28 Born in Mobile in 1903. picnics.]. Ellsworth's the decision to become Oceola's patron because critic" "Negro girl had been highly recommended In fact. the music therefore supposedly (Hughes. from the "so-called common element" ("Negro Artist" 1312). as Hughes calls the lower class.in light of the fact that her mother plays the organ in church and we later learn that Oceola "played for a church quite choir" ("Negro Artist" 1312. the world in Mobile.] Papa had a band [. too.]" parents had jobs and sometimes they didn't. "Blues" 100). opinion of Oceola even means that "there had been no doubt" about the decision of patronage on the part of Mrs. barbecues. .a quality Hughes venerates in the "low-down folks" . Oceola played by ear for a long while until her mother taught her notes. dances. Often they were hungry f. [. indeed. Further. jazz. Ellsworth.


for. continuing to succumb to standards. he makes it impossible for whites to have an accurate perception of African. Ellsworth consults to educate herself on Negro "a book called 'Nigger Heaven'" by Carl life. as Hughes would say. and [leaving] out a great many things they thought would offend . Du Bois was white still held back by the racial mountain. both who attempt to portray minority life. Du Bois claims that. one sees that Du Bois employs circular reasoning.29 Through this section of "The Blues I'm Playing. believes in the promise of realistic portrayals of African. logically. impossible for blacks ever to be accepted for who they truly are: ultimately. Ellsworth gains from her own white-authored sources of propaganda. in essence." Hughes exposes and comments upon an 1 ' inherent flaw in the Du Boisian logic of "Criteria of Negro Art.of the artist "who is not afraid to be himself ("Negro artists] Artist" 1312). Hughes makes Du Bois advocates for portrayals of black life that are mere propaganda. Hughes sheds more light on this type of Du Boisian circular reasoning through the sources Mrs." rather than "writ[ing] to amuse and and in so doing distorting] and over-color[ing] their material. Hughes. Furthering his critique. Hughes. Ellsworth's unfaltering draws attention to faith in Mr.Americans . would also not be concerned with assimilated propaganda. such as Van Vechten and "Thomas Burke on of these works are written by white authors the point that as Limehouse" ("Blues" 106. Through Mrs. he longs to create art that is propaganda so as these to better the perception of his race in the eyes of whites. Hunter solely because he to the racial is white. "[M]ost of the good ones [black have tried to be honest. it. artistically. blacks should not care for the opinions of white critics. he In other words. As he says in The Big Sea. and express their world as they saw entertain white people. it is a false portrayal that is no different from those Mrs. write honestly. In his speech. however. When one juxtaposes two elements of Du Bois's speech. Ironically. if Du Bois was not concerned with white standards. yet paradoxically.American existence. Du Bois's homage mountain. like Oceola. 108).


Ellsworth try to overpower Oceola's artistic autonomy. so deep in the earth and so high in the sky that they understood everything" (113). Ellsworth believes below Oceola (111). Oceola's art. it is these "good" artists who. or filled it full of classical runs. Ellsworth's ideas of art to the and a movement upward . rather the African. As all far as Hughes is concerned.with a concern for how Oceola will be perceived (by whites) - that Mrs.no doubt a metaphor for high art. . Ellsworth] wished she could all that.30 their American brothers of a lighter complexion" (227). hold the key to the hope of blacks one day being accepted for who they truly are (227).] She [Mrs. Ellsworth organized weekends in the up-state mountains where she had a high places at the stars. At one point. in the spring. ("Blues" 111) As we "lift see Mrs. Mrs. Mrs. and this is what allows her music Oceola never doctored the bass notes to become transcendent. the trebles cry like little flutes. he would Thus. lift Oceola up bodily and take her away from So for art's sake. One even Hughes is punning on the word "star. however. Ellsworth is so focused on putative standards of art . . or fancy falsities. to force her into upward movement is that allows her to transcend the low-down which Mrs. is described by Hughes as being grounded and a part of the earth. Ellsworth really began to hate jazz — especially on a grand piano. Throughout the short stars story. we see that she wishes to Oceola up bodily" art. Hughes writes: [. it up. He writes: "In her playing of Negro folk music. Ellsworth's desires to . Mrs. In the blues she made throb like tom-toms.American not be accepted at than to be accepted on false terms. and forget about jazz. Ellsworth is always looking to the stars in the hopes that she will gets the sense that make Oceola a more sublimated artist. Hughes continually links Mrs. for Hughes. little lodge and where Oceola could look from the and fill her soul with the vastness of the eternal." related to Mrs.


thereby. and Billy Kersands' Minstrels. In Famous Negro Music Makers. Ultimately. As the all. But in the midst of Mrs. he quotes Serge Koussevitzky. In other works as well Hughes advances his sense of Oceola's low-down art being grounded. if I could holler sang the blues. "Jazz comes from the soil. to stare mystically over the top of a grand piano like white folks and imagine that Beethoven had nothing to do with life. who where all says. The Big Sea." but short story the body of his works. both in a general aesthetic sense and for Oceola.an understanding Mrs. we are reminded of how Oceola's art is a part of the earth. or that Schubert's love songs were only sublimations" (114). Oceola realizes that even the classical music Mrs. and the Sanctified churches where religion was a joy. draws to a close and Oceola claims her autonomy once and for Hughes writes about the music that overtakes Mrs. Ellsworth's voice: "Oceola made the bass notes throb like tomtoms deep in the earth" ("Blues" 123). . But being grounded. As Oceola plays the blues O. it is important to recognize also throughout that Hughes carries this theme throughout not only "The Blues I'm Playing. Ellsworth's flights of fancy. music has its beginning" (168). she tries to dissever art's connection to life. autobiography.31 make Oceola a musical "star" and. Oceola does not make this mistake: "Oceola's background was too well-grounded in Mobile. In the excerpt from Hughes's to this thesis. a permanent testament to her patronage. Ellsworth forces upon her is grounded in reality and has a connection to life . Again. which I have quoted as the epigram "its we see that Hughes talks about the strength of black music coming from rooted power" (209). and perhaps it takes on an even greater importance here - at the moment when Oceola - refuses to succumb to the white normative standards. Ellsworth never achieves. Although both of these works were published after The Ways of White Folks.


But what's more. Ellsworth's and Oceola's views of art. Ellsworth "rise[sj from her chair" and says." for her line "doesn't rhyme." we see yet another upward movement through which she attempts to distance herself from Oceola's grounded jazz and blues. "And I (.] would stand looking at the stars" (123). Hughes. and what was it that they said? They raised a mighty cry: "It is the stars. it is the ancient stars. is able to use a deviance from the musical form to show the inherent disconnection between Mrs. . as Stephen Tracy points out. Ellsworth's line is clearly de-contextualized. but in form. it is the young and everlasting stars!" (784) The fact that Hughes closes his story by aligning Mrs. (123) Mrs. as do the lines of the song |. One of them was gloom of night a story of a folk who found fire and then went wandering in the seeking again the stars they had once known and lost: suddenly out of blackness they looked up and there loomed the heavens. through his knowledge of the blues. Clearly. Ellsworth's voice yet again with that of the "colored near-intellectuals" speaks to the degree to which Hughes truly wanted the short story to comment upon out. I'd go up on de mountain sang the blues. . Ellsworth has the last word in Hughes's story. As Mrs. And call my baby - back." but she does not ultimately get the . . .].32 Like a mountain jack. Ellsworth's final response "violates the true words [sic] lyric not only in spirit. Mrs. Ellsworth "rises. Ellsworth's to "Criteria final line echoes Du Bois's closing of Negro Art": I had a classmate once who did three beautiful things and died. As Tracy points "Mrs. underscoring how foreign the tradition and the spirit are to Ellsworth" ("Blues" 18). Mrs. the debates of the Harlem Renaissance ("Negro Artist" 1314). Further.


As Hughes writes earlier in the story. If you wanted to play the piano or paint pictures or write books. And we cannot help but to think of Hughes. separating himself from people like Locke and Du Bois who believed "art could save the race" (113). motivation for using jazz however. Hughes then begins to chronicle the birth of this jazzy child of the low-down folks.. jazzy. instead going forth to proclaim the truth of her own artistic- vision. "My second book is what I personally desired it to be [. Hughes defines it this tradition. too. and utterly uncouth. and the word art in French or English. Hughes also declares "Bunk!" when he seeks to break the cycle of Du Boisian circular reasoning by creating art that centered on folk idioms and fulfilled his own artistic vision . . of the beginning of their journey from Africa to their in the modern place Harlem Renaissance. asserting that "[j]azz such happy music because was born out of such great sadness" (216). art could save the race and prevent lynchings! 'Bunk!' said separates herself from Mrs. and Gceo^" ("Blues" it 13). go ahead! f. cabaret-ism. As Hughes would later say about his poetry collection. Seeking to change the staunch convictions of black intellectuals was not Hughes's only in his poetry. Happy Music Called Jazz. Oceola we imagine that is her low-down idea of art - that anyone who is true to life is also true to art that she will carry with her. . that In "That Sad. Having reclaimed her voice.. even] if the poems which it contains are low-down. Fine Clothes to the Jew.without caring what white audiences thought (113). "Oceola hated most artists. . we know that Oceola will escape the binding grasp of Mrs. Hughes realized that that jazz stemmed from a very rich African.] 1 have never pretended to be keeping a literary grazing pasture with food to suit all breeds of cattle" ("To the Editor" 73). Ellsworth. Ellsworth. Instead..33 final say ("Blues" 18). Like Oceola.American musical tradition was representative of the historical legacy of black Americans.] And as for the cultured Negroes who were always saying art would break down 1 color. describing . ." one of the for many articles on black music Hughes wrote is The Chicago Defender. [.


that roots its deep syncopations human soul. the religious spirituals and jubilees" until years later. that keeps it from ever played being a frivolous or meaningless music or merely entertainment. by elite its very nature. Hughes explains the inherent duality and oxymoronic nature of jazz. how much it is Through Hughes's statement. we Ultimately. as a poet. it is never the politicized portrayal of solely the or the intellectual. . we finally arrived at the blues. of both melody and harmony. in the music slaves played in Congo Square - a place where slaves were bought and dehumanized and in the objectified before white 1 " men. as get at the very essence of his devotion to jazz in his artistic vision. for he. despite "all its gaeity. and the dismal existence of music of New Orleans led to "the field hollers Hughes goes on to explain that the of the plantations." even only temporarily (216).34 the precursors to jazz that were apparent sold. Hughes's agenda multi-voiced. advocating only for the singular voice of the assimilated African. the immediate precursor to jazz (216).American success story. Hughes shows. both happy and sad. Unlike Locke and he invokes this legacy and its binary nature with careful nuance. in Africa. necessarily rooted in the low- down folks. is never propaganda. When Hughes draws upon jazz. He asserts that "the rhythms of Congo Square in New Orleans became the first sad-happy rhythms destined to set the tempos of American jazz" (216). recognizes what any musician would: the is value of multiple voices. Through this portrayal of Congo Square." it also remembers the communal traumas of captivity slavery (216). it is always the pure representation of the black aesthetic. jazz. Hughes then writes: "It is this combination of sadness and laughter that gives jazz in the its unique quality. no matter for fun" (217). the work songs of the Southern roads and the Mississippi levees. of the black legacy. the Middle Passage. Instead. describing the manner in which. but what Hughes calls "one of the saddest happy places if world where "many [slaves] forgot their bondage. Du Bois who promote literature as propaganda.


''' Harlem "was of course no Renaissance. Montage of a Dream Deferred: A Poetical and Musical Analysis 1 lughes's jazz-centered artistic vision outlived the Harlem Renaissance. so too are jazz musicians in constant musical conversation with fellow band members. that to portray this conflict fully. ragtime. for just as the speakers respond to each other. collectively creating the entire experience of a jam session. Ya Salaam points out. Hughes even prefaced the collection with the following headnote: In terms of current Afro-American popular music and the sources from which it has progressed -jazz. boogie-woogie. Montage's multi-voiced structure reflects its jazzy structure. Through these multiple voices. Montage "serves as a sounding board for the articulation of people who are usually voiceless" . for the collection. In fact. Many critics even claim that Hughes's 1951 book-length poem.African Americans who are overlooked by the white majority. Hughes a technique that accounts for the is able to provide a cross- Harlem life montage of the collection's title. and be-bop . he could not rely upon one poetic voice solely . blues. features different perspectives and speakers who should be read as in dialogue with one another and who collectively portray the full picture of 1940s life in Harlem. as the poetic voice that would appeal to whites. Harlem had become Yet Hughes realized better known nationally as an explosive site of urban racial conflict 1 ' (362). in a truly Modernist way. represents the epitome of his jazz poetry. Montage of a Dream Deferred.this . John Lowney explains that *'[b]y the 1940s. the lower-class blacks who are overlooked by members of their section of postwar own race.35 //.especially not Instead. swing. Although still longer the center of refuge and hope associated with the New Negro a major destination for poor migrant blacks during the Great Depression. But the collection also emphasizes the importance of multiple voices.


I'm happy! 15 . is marked by conflicting changes.an idea is reflected in the poem's musical structure. he also prepares us for the types of jazz he will employ in the collection and the types of social commentary those jazz forms signify. daddy! Aint you heard The boogie-woogie rumble Of a dream deferred? Listen closely: You'll hear their feet 5 Beating out and beating out a It's You think a happy beat? it Listen to Ain't closely: 10 you heard something underneath like a WTiat did I say? Sure. Thus. While the collection draws heavily on bebop. sudden nuances. broken rhythms. such as the older boogie-woogie (Jemie 63). sharp and impudent interjections. the poetic jam session also contains other elements of jazz.36 poem on contemporary Harlem. session. But most importantly. breaks. sometimes the popular song. the collection deals with the impact of the deferred Africanthat American dream . and distortions [sic] of the community in transition. and passages sometimes in the manner of the jam riffs. (Montage 387) view Montage's dialogic structure in Hughes himself not only prepares us to terms of the jam session. like be-bop. Hughes is able to draw upon the importance of the black musical tradition within the collection. The centerpiece of Montage is the poem "Dream Boogie": i Good morning. music of a punctuated by the runs.


bebop a more Modernist form of jazz. one through four are five. Within the first stanza of "Dream Boogie. boogie- woogie is one of the earliest forms of jazz . three. Unlike boogie-woogie. characterized by dissonant chord structures and the singing of bebop syllables. the varying syllable count forces the lines of poetry to be read in syncopated rhythm so as to fill the entire four beats of the musical . This motif is the musical theme which the imaginary musicians will return in both their thematic will return in various improvised forms and to which the poems material and diction in various syntactical forms. both rhetorically and musically. sometimes referred to as "scatting jazz." for lines establishes the characteristic rhythm of boogie-woogie. since boogie-woogie is written in measures that adhere to a 4/4 time signature. "Dream Boogie. The syllable counts five. During an ostinato.37 Take it away Hey. respectively. seven. which is "a jazz piano idiom featuring a recurring ostinato of rolling eighth-notes in the bass under improvised figures in the treble" (Borshuk 74). as many poses a question. and However. upon which the poems throughout the collection will be based: "Ain't you heard / The boogie-woogie rumble to / Of a dream deferred?" (lines 2-4)." draws primarily upon the form of boogie- woogie." prepares critics point out. it the reader for the remainder of the poetry collection because.a link between ragtime (which is is closely related to the blues) and bebop. pop! Re-bop! Mop! Y-e-a-h! 20 "Dream Boogie." Hughes uses bebop syllables such as "Oop-pop-a-da! / Skee! Daddle-de-do! / Be-bopT in the poem "Children's Rhymes" (lines 25-27) and "De-daddle-dy! / De-dopT Hughes in "What? So Soon!" (lines 10-11). In terms of its structure. As the poem's title implies. a pianist would eighth notes between alternating fingers in the roll left hand.


being a jazz connoisseur allowed him give his jazz to poems an inherent jazzy rhythm and lyrical quality that even Hughes himself could not have explained musically... which my rhythmic dictation demonstrates. VouU Qr> ^ ^ -.-. In a recording of Hughes reading "Dream Boogie.. : -i: >.'. his poem actually has the potential to do both.tel COdlSL lUbC ^* ! * . C- h J' 1. "Dream").. * ^ ~ r +> ffa>i: ." I have created an approximate rhythmic dictation of "Dream Boogie": *£ ^?~^ Ben M *-*Ci 2a. i. and Carmen Skaggs "Dream Boogie" can be me put read 4 I am grateful to Drs. to- k • H^- n i yjop: V&sh Although Hughes never studied music formally.38 measure that each line of poetry more or less represents. jrnj trunk ri a r\ £ ry " 9 JLu J J. *n—ar 3E*E ^=4: I '. Lisa Oberlander.j icr. For example.p new r inc fee: <igi wd "v. for helping "Dream Boogie" into rhythmic dictation.' ~—J~J "'""3 """"J" "J" : m ' • >t D«d : h T? <-"-'* ^-g. <*c !<• k — " *"-' TUTs Me Ufl j _(r-:. showing that Ronald Sherrod. 4lS~J-~~J~ Morn i-. i .. Adopting Tracy's method of analyzing the beats per measure and hypothetical chord structure of 'The 4 Weary Blues. Nevertheless..--0&C * LV. li^Sr L*_ f . ~i —m -v-w *~2 V-JTd So::!. .Jia * J -:." he does not adhere to a musical meter or to musical rhythms as a jazz musician would (Hughes. . . stanza of the we see that each poem equals four 4/4 measures of music.I . because Hughes internalized the qualities of jazz.


nine. stressed and unstressed syllables receive a different accented emphasis." and "deferred" (lines 1-4). decipher his methodology to see just how expertly Hughes did the opposite. By translating Hughes's poetic jazz into musical jazz. in a sense. such as in line eight. the unstressed syllables are not given equal rhythmic value as the stressed syllables. Not coincidentally. Throughout the rhythmic dictation. Hughes . For example. we can. The with a strict poem also relies upon the boogie-woogie rhythm throughout. and fourteen stray from the rhythm as established The rhyme scheme of "Dream Boogie" qualities also aids in poetically creating the musical of boogie-woogie. Hughes is able to stray from this poetic convention to capture the rhythmic qualities that are characteristic of boogie-woogie. However. but not different length values. translated the musical jazz he heard into poetic jazz on the page. this boogie-woogie rhythm in a line of the poem that refers to We can then see Hughes return to the dotted-eighth sixteenth rhythm throughout the poem. For a pianist." "heard. In the first stanza. by ending the seventh line with a dash. The second stanza upon the same rhyme scheme in lines five initially with the ABC portion assigned in lines one through three also appearing through seven." "rumble. Then with the poem's rhythm established. the indented and italicized lines eight. beats one and three. Hughes establishes boogie-woogie explicitly.a passage of repeated dotted-eighth sixteenths. While the majority of the stressed syllables in "Dream Boogie" fall on the strongest beats within the measures. In terms of poetics. ten.39 musical meter. Hughes is able to "'improvise' on that rhythm" with the "disruptive variations that follow" (Borshuk 79). and twelve. the boogie-woogie rhythm would serve as the left-hand ostinato. which would act as the chordal foundation for improvisations made by the right hand. for example. Yet by building the boogie-woogie rhythm into the poem. Hughes establishes an ABCB rhyme scheme with relies the words "daddy. we see the most basic boogie-woogie rhythm recurring . as in line three. in the first stanza.


As the poems progress. the musical phrases. and rather than returning to the boogie-woogie rhythms already established. the word "deferred" is expected to end line thirteen to keep the ABCB rhyme scheme. but this time never returns to the anticipated B portion of the rhyme scheme. Due rhyme scheme of stanza two becomes ABCDB. Musically speaking. As John Lowney explains of Montage. Hughes turns to the poetic equivalent of a musical improvisation in stanza four and ends the poem with bebop syllables. Hughes employs yet another jazz break in line fourteen. . Musically speaking. Hughes has posed a musical question that he leaves unresolved. the tension that builds from the unanswered question of "Dream Boogie" only builds. Hughes places his poetic jazz break between stanzas. paving the way lines. there an inherent connection between "bebop's dissonance and Harlem's Lott.American dream continuing is be deferred.40 extends the boogie-woogie rhythm established rest in the in the first stanza (musically reflected by the half poem's rhythmic dictation). Lowney paraphrases Eric aggressively modernist in a who explains that "bebop was [. but the poetic improvisation can only be recognized because the rhyme scheme established in the first stanza has been altered. The and its third stanza strays slightly both from the rhyme scheme established in the first stanza altered form in the second stanza. "a very brief syncopated interlude. Not hostility. However. Just as a jazz break comes between to the jazz. usually of two to four bars.' its social only was its 'relationship to earlier styles one of calculated position apart from both the black and middle class and any white mainstream consensus 'gave aesthetic self- . as we see it in the indented and nine. . between musical phrases— often improvised in unwritten jazz" (Hughes.] way that earlier forms of African American music had not been. growing frustation" (370). With the ABC portion of the rhyme scheme established in lines ten through twelve.break. lines eight and nine serve as a jazz break.of the African. eight for the change in rhyme scheme. and bebop plays a very pivotal role social injustice in Hughes showing to the consequences of . First 49).


assertion political force and value'" (365).

Hughes echoed


underlying message of bebop

when he




where Bop comes from


out of

them dark days we have

seen. That


why Be-bop

so mad, wild, frantic, crazy.


not to be

dug unless you have
play Bop,

seen dark days, too. That's





much cannot

and do not understand


They think


like you.

They think



crazy crazy. They do not





MAD crazy, SAD crazy, FRANTIC
That's what

(qtd. in

beat right out of

some bloody black head!






we can



Hughes's use of bebop



means of remaining

true to his artistic vision

to challenge the racial




becomes one of the voices

in the dialogic structure

of Montage,

articulating unspeakable

communal traumas.

Indeed, whenever bebop syllables appear in the

collection, at first glance, they are seemingly unrelated to the text at hand.




becomes apparent
in standard

that the


syllables take the place of ideas that cannot be fully expressed

words, just as jazz musicians can portray inexpressible emotional burdens through

music. Consider "Children's Rhymes,"' for example,


which disillusioning statements about the


of being black


1940s America - "I know I can't / be President" (lines 8-9) and
(lines 15-16)


knows everybody / ain't free"


What 's written down
for white folks
ain't for us a-tall:


And Justice—

Huh— For All.



- are followed by a string of bebop syllables:

Skee! Daddle-de-do!

Be -bop!



In "Children's

(lines 25-29).

Rhymes." Hughes seems

to exhaust the extent to

which he could portray the dark
the very idea that the

irony that lies beneath the African-American experience.




focus on children's rhymes and the time of childhood as an idyllic experience, as the



undercut by the fact that African-American children are reminded from an early age

of the limitations

that are

imposed upon them by the color of their


Indeed, by the end of the





Hughes has few coping mechanisms other than those of the jazz musician,


he turns to bebop syllables, seemingly as meaningless as "peanuts" (line 28), but actually a
portrayal of the

qtd. in


would deny any


freedom because of melanin (Hughes
In a




similar to his repeated use of





upon the
points out.

elements of boogie-woogie established in "Dream Boogie" - including, as
"the boogie-woogie rhythm" - in five other boogie-woogie


poems before Montage ends



At times, the diction of Hughes's boogie-woogie poems blatantly describes the characteristics of
boogie-woogie music. For example,
in the first

stanza of "Easy Boogie,"




in the


That steady beat

. .

"Dream Boogie: Variation. Hughes writes." Hughes "Hey. instead. all four of the lines quoted above describe an ostinato. the boogie-woogie poems serve as an intertextual to the next call and response from writes. as the jazz breaks were in "Dream Boogie" but it also literally states the musical qualities that a jazz break would have.m. Later in the poem. one boogie-woogie poem (Borshuk 86) said?" as a In "Easy Boogie. (lines 1-4) I lughes employs yet again the boogie-woogie rhythm of dotted-eighth sixteenths in the third line.. breaks" (line 9). a technique Meta Du Ewa Jones classifies as "the poetic equivalent of a musical In this way." African..m. By we reach "Boogie: a.43 Walking walking walking Like marching feet.indented further than the other stanzas. Lawdy." which also uses the dotted-eighth sixteenth note rhythm. "Riffs." this time referring to the mother instead (lines 10-11)." however. In "Boogie: 1 a. smears. With the appearance of Montage's realize they are a boogie- woogie poem." the perception of the musical question presented a. riff (81 ). Note how "Walking walking walking" of of line 3 in line 3 has the same rhythm as "boogie-woogie rumble" "Dream Boogie. have for the speaker of "Boogie: 1 is certain that African. 1 1 know you've heard" (lines 1-2).m." in "Dream Boogie" has changed. posed Mama / Do you hear what 1 manner of riffing upon the rhetorical question to the daddy of "Dream Boogie. Further. relying to the elements of boogie-woogie ways that are not so upon poetic improvisation by using diction from the preceding boogie- woogie poem(s). the left-hand bass part that a jaz^ pianist would employ in a boogie-woogie piece (Hughes.Americans "few minutes . Not only does the line serve as a poetic example of a jazz break as well - . in At other times. First 27). Hughes returns explicit.Americans now "heard / [t]he boogie-woogie rumble final / [o]f a dream deferred" ("Dream Boogie" lines 2-4). Hughes directly calls upon the textual melodic structure established by the rhetorical questioning of the daddy daddy! / in "Dream Boogie" by the time saying: "Good evening.

• ' • .. .

in tension that can no . often canonized without its original context within Montage. and the syrupy sweet all is described as nothing less than burdensome. In each of these images. By this point." Hughes poses his famous rhetorical question: "What happens But because the poem is to a dream deferred?" (line 1 ).44 late / [f|or the Freedom is Train"' (lines 11-12). In "Harlem. "Harlem. most readers do not realize question posed in that this question comes as a result of the original rhetorical "Dream Boogie. the Africansilently to the effects American must succumb of his dream being deferred. and the Of course. African Americans have tried to repress has manifested instead. the meat. Yet Hughes itself. heavy load the raisin." it Ultimately. I lughes has prepared readers for the appearance of what arguably the most well-known poem in Montage. the question only begets more questions: Does dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore And Does then run? it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over like a syrupy sweet? Maybe like a it just sags heavy load. hearkening back to predicts that what the veneration of passivity in poems from The New Negro." which alters the course of the poetic montage and the musical jam session. Or does it explode? (lines 2-11) provide an image of decay.

> - . .

Similarly. when Hughes asks. rather than resolving the tension created by the initial rhetorical question. each poem plays an integral part in completing both the artistic montage and the musical collection. the musicians have not resolved the dissonance of suspended jazz chords . Musically speaking. the original musical question has become more complex. we could say that by the time the jam session ends. sudden nuances. the same question posed in "Dream Boogie'" ends Montage." the collection's final poem: "Good morning. Hughes has brought us full circle.American itself in psyche in an act of self-preservation will invariably manifest some other form.45 longer be sublimated . The tension reaches its climax in the poem's last final question. as have the questions regarding the deferral of the African-American dream throughout black American history.American dream. While all of the poems Montage do not have an obvious musical undertone. such as bebop. many of . In a community impudent like 1940s Harlem. jam session of the Contributing to the recurring motif of the deferred African. the black community has found no resolution to the original question Hughes poses regarding in the deferral of the African-American dream. through improvisation that has taken place throughout the jam session. while never answering any of them.'* Hughes predicts that the effects of prolonged repression could be devastating (Montage 387). Many critics point out that by the time Montage ends. The poem's query presents an entirely different effect of the deferred the devastating impacts of Freud's theories of African-American dream. one the return of the repressed that brings with it all - that what has been shoved from the collective African. "marked by conflicting changes. "O does it explode?"' (line 1 1 ). In a musical sense.an idea that reflected in the poem's repeated use of questions. is 1 lughes introduces one tension-building inquiry after another. / Ain't you heard 9 " - a verbatim repetition of the collection's opening Ultimately. Hughes writes in "Island.an atonal technique common in Modernist forms of jazz. sharp and interjections. daddy! lines (lines 11-12).

: .

But will it will not be white.American dream in terms of the racial discrimination he faces.46 the poems portray African-Americans facing the deferral of their dream on a personal level Perhaps the strongest example of this is the famous poem. "Theme is for English B. (lines of the speaker and the professor both being a part of each other. guess you learn from me although you're older — and white 27-40) and somewhat more In the idea free. That's American." in which the first-person speaker. Hughes writes: So will my page be colored that I write? Being me. a black student in the class of a white English professor. often thought of as Hughes himself. we think of the transcendental oversoul and are reminded of the Whitmanesque speaker of Hughes's Yet there is earlier poems. we I are. The student speaks of the deferred African. as 1 yet a part of am a part of you. that's true! As 1 learn from you. You are whiteme.'" a more subversive message existed in his earlier that beneath the surface of the words in "Theme for English B" than poems. "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" and lies just "I. Too. a part of you. Sometimes perhaps you don't want to be a part of me. it be instructor. Nor do But I often want to be a part of you. and it seems as though Hughes may even be mocking his earlier idealistic Whitmanesque .

- .' .

in the case of both the speaker and the professor. Hughes shows the flaws of an assimilationist philosophy. In fact. which he has since replaced with a more cynical. (377) Lowney goes on to say.]. all of these portrayals complete the jam session by serving as textual improvisation upon the main musical theme. are defined one by the other'" (75). personal ways. . less assimilated outlook. Hughes Du Boisian propaganda is not an answer to the race problem. Hughes is able to transform the abstract concept of mistreatment that affects African-Americans in very real. Through these personal racial injustice into tangible portrayals. . Yet as Lowney points out. the poem can also be read as a critique of the American melting pot. "the accentuation of 'I guess' and 'somewhat more free' is too ironic to ignore" (377). yet again. Musically speaking." subtle conclusion underscores how the interdependency of 'we two' Indeed. As Jemie says. the "writer" of this "theme" cannot and fully identify himself with the intellectual of worldview of his instructor'" ironically. that Further. or Bach. Instead. he allows the voice of this student. as presented in "Dream Boogie" - the deferred . as is hardly based on social equality. "the formal discourse this composition distances him from Harlem as well establishes a [. contesting the ideologies of Locke whose approval of conflating Anglo forms with Africanpot. American poetic content aligns with the problematic idea of the melting proves.47 portrayals of African. While the poem "common ground" between its student and instructor in the music of "Bessie. even though their experiences overlap. bop. "neither group relishes the idea" that their "experiences interpenetrate. portraying the African-American existence without propaganda. a realistic portrayal of the life of a black student in white academe. Ultimately. to resonate amongst other voices in Montage.American reality.


and the artistic montage is incomplete without all the seemingly jam session is incomplete without each of the musical movements."" The percussion enters. .as he read his poetry to the accompaniment of jazz musicians. and the musicians' performance helps to shed light on the way in which Hughes viewed the relationship between his spoken-word poetry and musical jazz. Hughes's reading. "Dream Montage"" begins with Hughes reading "Good Morning. which plays the bass line that serves as the foundation for the main musical theme. the merging of the personal and the abstract contribute to Hughes's sense of vocal multiplicity. At this point. Just as the unrelated pictures. The main theme continues and is nearly Hughes changes his verbal rhythm when he reads the indented lines.putting them in dialogue with one another ."* "Harlem. he valued jazz's musical voice as much as he valued its poetic voice. comprised of smooth."* Hughes reads four of Montage's final poems. In a compilation entitled "Dream Montage. 'Good Morning. swung jazz. that in poetry-to-jazz readings also reflects his multi-voiced artistic is. "wondering / wide-eyed / dreaming'* (lines 18-20). begins when Hughes says the word "colored. the musical accompaniment gradually moves away from the main theme throughout the remainder of the poem and completely stops by the 5 See Appendix I for the complete text of the poems. so is Hughes's poetic Montage incomplete without both abstract and personal portrayals of the deferred African." and "Comment on Curb. But his readings also elucidate how Hughes viewed the relationship between jazz as music and jazz as poetry."' to the accompaniment of Leonard Feather and Charles Mingus. followed by the double bass. Hughes's involvement vision.American dream. Nine seconds into the piece. Similarly. s Analyzing the correlations between the poems.48 African-American dream."* "Same in Blues. Poetry-to- jazz readings allowed him to bring the two voices together . the main musical theme."* musically underscoring the importance of the poems' racial message unaltered until (line 4).


" the lower brass improvises a glissando. which is a synesthetic representation of the smell of "rotten meat" (line 6). As Hughes "And then run?. The tension intensifies until the music calls for some type of release. and dissonant tone clusters on the piano. Just as Hughes builds upon rhetorical question with additional ones.49 time Hughes says "gate. with the piano and then with the other instruments as well (lines 9-10)." first the musical accompaniment builds tension through the use of dissonant chord structures. Moving toward the lines. it stink meat?. the musicians end the reading of '"Harlem" with an explosion of brass. asking. the musical . "Maybe it just sags / like a heavy load." the pianist releases the damper pedal. Hughes's rhetorical that "What happens to a dream deferred?" (line 1 )." the musical accompaniment has completely a musical question to imitate abandoned the main musical theme." the woodwind plays an improvised segment over the other musical instrumentation (lines 7-8). posing question. the pianist then augments the rhythm says." musically underscoring the meaning of "bars 24-25). When Hughes asks the question. slightly before returning to the original music at hand (lines 2-3). After the question. "Or crust and sugar over - / like a syrupy sweet?." the piano player slightly varies the melodic line with an After posing the question. altering the smooth. / at each gate" (lines As Hughes begins his reading of "Harlem. Rather than resolving the musical tension by returning to the tonic chord. "Does it dry up / sun?. resonant nature of the music that has characterized the majority of the piano part since the poem's first rhetorical question. all of which coincides with Hughes "Or does it explode 9 " (line 11) In this way. The musicians riff and vary the musical structure accordance with the like a raisin in the nature of the questions Hughes poses. improvisation by the percussionist. "Does improvised run that moves toward the treble like rotten (line 5). so do the musicians build upon the musical question in they just presented.

- .


accompaniment predicts the impeding explosion
deterred African-American dream
is left

that will

come about


the tension of the



into the

poem, "Same


Blues," the musical accompaniment returns to the main

theme established


"Good Morning."

In the indented, italicized riffs that refer to "Harlem,"' the

musical structure again parallels Hughes's poetic language.


the idea of "traveling"


mentioned, the saxophone improvises a melodic structure that travels away from the established


(line 6).





lovin' days


through," and presents the idea that there

"[#] certain

/amount of impotence

a dream deferred'' the music stops


It is

not until



liable /to be confusion /in

a dream deferred,"

that the

music resumes


Blues" lines 18-21, 26-28). At
to the

this point, the



seems, in a way, confused

and does not return

main theme


Hughes moves toward

the final

poem, "Comment on

Curb." The track ends with a suspended jazz chord and Hughes's repetition of the word

"Harlem" - elongated with each

repetition to serve as rhythmic augmentation

and also to

emphasize the increasingly problematic nature of the deferred African- American dream


line 7).

Just as

Hughes's poetic jam session


Montage of a Dream Deferred ends

an unresolved manner, so too do the musicians

Hughes's poetry-to-jazz reading leave the

suspended jazz chords unresolved, uniting the poetry on the page with the spoken word


thematic intent and jazzy qualities. With questions begetting more questions, tension begetting



Hughes reminds us

that although art

can be transcendent,
a sad voice in


cannot solve the race

problem happens


even beneath happy jazz there

is still

Harlem asking, "What

to a

dream deferred?," another voice responding. "Ain't you heard?"



Unlike Locke and



who spoke

in a singular voice,

only portraying the assimilated

and the


Hughes embraced vocal



artistic vision

focused on lower-

class blacks


shared a


characteristic: they

were not afraid


be themselves. But


commonality did not keep Hughes from realizing


complexity - a complexity that required


to write in multiple voices

even when he portrayed a single group of people. Hughes
the voice of the

could write

in dialect

when he captured

mother who


her son, "Life for



been no crystal


line 2).

Yet he could also use standard English when he

represented the voice of the poor and struggling college student in


for English B,"


of course, he could portray the plight of the lower class through their


folk idioms.

What Hughes accomplished through

his multi-voiced artistic vision


exactly what Zadie

Smith, the award-winning Jamaican-English novelist and modern-day public intellectual, had in

mind when she wrote "Speaking




which she contests the idea

that "[v]oices are

be unchanging and similar" (par.

Instead, she says, "In our artists


look for the

many-colored voice, the multiple sensibility" and the
26, 29).

ability to

"speak simultaneous truths"


Her essay


in essence,

an analysis of Barack Qbama's success with the American

people, which she attributes to his vocal multiplicity, his refusal to


to the


"concept of a unified black voice" (24). This concept, she explains, "has filtered
the black







at all levels, settling itself in that

impossible injunction 'keep



original intention of

which was unification"


So. too, do


see that

when Locke and Du

Bois called for a "unified black voice," they also longed tor "unification," not only amongst
blacks, but between blacks and whites as well (24). But echoing

what Hughes said nearly a

century earlier. Smith goes on to point out that "unifying] the concept of Blackness

order to


only "confined and restricted

it" (24).

In the case

of Locke and


Bois, they

i .( : .

complex truths provided the only hope of blacks being accepted for themselves . Until Hughes would continue to believe in "the blare of Negro jazz bands and the bellowing to say. voice of Bessie Smith singing Blues. out perhaps then. his unassimilated. but for Hughes. telling the story of both their happiness and their sadness (24). if it led to it at all (24). portraying the low-down folks through their own multi-voiced musical creation.maybe not in his lifetime. free within ourselves" ("Negro Artist" 1314). "speak[ing| simultaneous truths" was more important than gaining false unification. Yet Hughes recognized and sought 1 to avoid the risks associated with a "unified black voice" when he centered his artistic vision on jazz." and he would continue "We build our temples for tomorrow. in the future (29). which could only lead to fleeting and false unification. The lower classes may not have spoken with voices that whites admired. . strong as we know how. and we stand on top of the mountain.52 ""confined and restricted" black art in a way that actually reiterated white standards and gave whites a fabricated view of the black experience.


he said.53 Appendix I "Dream Montage" "Good Morning" Good morning. The gates at are open Yet there're bars each gate. in buses marked New York from Georgia Florida Louisiana Arkansas to Harlem Brooklyn the Bronx Harlem dusky sash across Manhattan I've seen them come dark wondering but most of all to wide-eyed dreaming out of Penn Station but the trains are late. explode? Or does it . daddy! was born here. up from Cuba Haiti Jamaica. chico. watched Harlem grow I until colored folks spread river to river from across the middle of Manhattan out of Penn Station dark tenth of a nation. "Harlem" What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar overlike a syrupy sweet? just sags Maybe like a it heavy load. and holds of boats. planes from Puerto Rico.

- * .

All You can have me. Lulu said I You won't get a dadblame thing! A certain amount of nothing in a dream deferred. I want is you. There's liable to be confusion when a dream gets kicked around. Three parties On my Lord. she said. party line But that third party. baby but my lovin' days is through. take I can't. slow. daddy. Leonard said to Lulu. A certain amount of impotence in a dream deferred. to Leonard want a diamond ring. ain't mine! There's liable to in he confusion a dream deferred. daddy. . Uptown and down. From river to river. Daddy. I said to my it Baby. can't! I got to go! There 's a certain amount of traveling in a dream deferred.54 "Same I in Blues" baby.


/ expect they do- But I'm talking about Harlem Harlem. to you! Harlem. Harlem.55 "Comment on Curb" You talk like they don't kiek dreams around downtown. .


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