Langston Hughes: Poetry inspired by travel

When Langston Hughes’s dad moved to Mexico when Langston was a child, he created the path to the poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.” In 1920, while crossing the Mississipi River on a train on his way to Mexico to visit his dad, Langston was inspired to write the poem on the back of a letter. He had just finished high school.

In honor of Black History month, the inspiration gathered from world travel and Langston Hughes, whose poetry still inspires, here’s a short video of him talking about this trip and writing the poem. Plus, he reads it at the end. See what images of your own trips are conjured up. This is a lesson in always having a scrap of paper and a pen or a pencil with you when you travel.

Where on Earth? Week 43 – Isla Negra, Chile

Where on Earth this week is the small beachside town of Isla Negra, 80km south of Valparaiso in Chile. This is one of three houses that Chilean poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda maintained in his home country. Up the road in Valpo, La Sebastiana cascades down the rugged hills of the port town, and further south in Santiago, La Chascona is a suitably bohemian and rambling abode in the arty suburb of Bellavista. And which of the three homes was reputedly Neruda’s favourite? Casa de Isla Negra of course…

Poetry in Baghdad

Every time I hear Baghdad mentioned in the news my face and stomach both turn to sour. The American death tolls, the Iraqi death tolls, Bush, politics, etc. All of it makes me want to holler. Can the world get any worse? Surely, but I’m in no mood to discuss politics tonight. Instead I’m going to point you to this NPR piece on poetry. No, wait, not just poetry, but poetry shared in what they call the “Freedom Tent” in Baghdad so I suppose they’ll be some politics involved after all, but not from me.

Organized by the women’s Freedom in Iraq group, the goal is to bring Sunni’s from Madaan (a violent neighborhood in south Baghdad) together with Shiites from Sadr City to open up and share poems filled with both hope and grief. The environment is peaceful and the energy is the same. What would the world be like if it were always the way things went in the Freedom Tent? Who knows? Still, I have always loved poetry and the words from within insiders in foreign places. The pauses, winding of the words and the words themselves always have a different feeling and ring to them. Kind of like gun shots and the pitter-patter of children’s feet running down dark Baghdad streets to find shelter. The pause in the poet’s poem – the brief moment in time when the violence has ceased.

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