Langston Hughes's understanding of both associative language patterning and the development of scene within his poems shows a keen sense not only of his understanding of the African American iconography he drew from but also of his commitment to represent it on the page. It's not news that Hughes was a “race man,” but it's increasingly important to observe how he used racial referents in the crafting of his poems. Over time, Hughes's poems have been read less for their craft and more for their content, but this article delves into the craft of the poems, formally. Beyond that, being at turns a personal essay, it also speaks to the influence Hughes has had on the author, A. Van Jordan. The larger question of the essay is simply this: How does Hughes do it? Part of Hughes's gift as a poet is that he understands this experience and can move from the exterior world in his poems to the interiority of the figures in or the speakers of his poems. Being unburdened with the performance anxiety of thinking he needed to imitate a white writer, he set out to create his own aesthetic, even offering the first American poetic form, the blues stanza, and writing in a fully American idiom, the jazz idiom. If we examine this freedom, we can see his craft.

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