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January 4, 2012
Birthday Celebration for Langston Hughes, Feb. 1
Langston Hughes was a prolific writer of poems, plays, novels, columns, essays and short stories that portrayed and celebrated the lives of African Americans, and he stands as one of the nation’s most original and essential writers.
The 110th birthday of the illustrious Hughes (1902-1967) will be honored at the Library of Congress with a reading of his work by Washington, D.C. Poet Laureate Dolores Kendrick and Evie Shockley, who will also discuss Hughes’ influence on their own poetry. Items from the Library’s collection on Langston Hughes will be on display.
The reading will start at noon on Wednesday, Feb. 1 in the Whittall Pavilion on the ground floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. Sponsored by the Library’s Poetry and Literature Center and the Manuscript Division, the event is free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are needed.
Hughes was born on Feb. 1, 1902 in Joplin, Mo., and raised in several locations around the Midwest. He lived briefly in Washington, D.C. as a young man (famously encountering the poet Vachel Lindsay while working as a busboy at the Wardman Park Hotel), and traveled to Paris and the Soviet Union before settling in Harlem for most of his adult life.
Hughes is regarded as one of the pivotal figures in the Harlem Renaissance and revered as a major innovator in 20th-century poetry. In both form and content, his poems address the African-American experience, marrying the rhythms of jazz and the incantatory cadences of the blues to an incisive social consciousness that retains its authority over 40 years after his death.
Kendrick is the second person (following Sterling Brown) to be appointed poet laureate of the District of Columbia. Her books include "Why the Woman Is Singing on the Corner: A Verse Narrative" and "The Women of Plums: Poems in the Voices of Slave Women," which she adapted for theatrical performance in Cleveland, Ohio, and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. A winner of many awards and honors, she has been inducted into the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent.
Shockley is an assistant professor of English at Rutgers University and the author of two books of poetry, "the new black" and "a half-red sea." Her book of criticism, "Renegade Poetics: Black Aesthetics and Formal Innovation in African American Poetry," was recently published by University of Iowa Press. From 2007-2011, she co-edited the poetry journal jubilat. She currently serves as a contributing editor to Evening Will Come, a monthly online journal of poetics.
The Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress fosters and enhances the public’s appreciation of literature. The center administers the endowed poetry chair (the U.S. Poet Laureate), and coordinates an annual literary season of poetry, fiction and drama readings, performances, lectures and symposia, sponsored by the Library’s Gertrude Clarke Whittall Poetry and Literature Fund and the Huntington Fund. For more information, visit www.loc.gov/poetry/.
For further information on Langston Hughes from the Library of Congress, visit www.loc.gov/rr/program/journey/hughes.html.
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