After reading Natalie Smith’s post on the “Audio-Video Adaptation of Hughes’s ‘The Weary Blues’”, I suddenly remembered that about a year ago, while digitizing a good amount of audio from the James Farmer archive at UMW, I had come across an unmarked tape that had over 40 minutes of Langston Hughes reading and discussing a fascinating selection of his poems. There are too many gems to list here, but I was thrilled by the unexpected discovery of such a sustained and rich series of readings. And while it’s no big secret that Hughes is a titan of American poetry, what was so cool for me about this was that I had never heard him speak before—no less read and discuss his work in such a casual and revealing way.
So, if you’re a fan of Langston Hughes, I have a little present for you: forty minutes and twenty-nine seconds of him reading and discussing a wide range of his poetry. I am not sure when this recording was made, but I imagine sometime in the 60s, but that is just a wild guess–if anyone knows more about the details of this audio file, let me know. I just wanted to get it out there before someone told me it was copyrighted 🙂 I can imagine this will prove both a compelling listen for anyone who gives it a whirel, not to mention a potentially unbelievable teaching resource. Anyway, you can find the entire audio file with all 40 minutes here:
Download Langston Hughes Reads and Discusses his poetry (40:29)
Now, if you aren’t going to get the whole thing (which you really, really should), I highly recommend listening to Langston Hughes recount his time in Washington DC during the mid 1920s, where he got his first big break by slipping Vachel Lindsay three of his poems scrawled on a napkin while working as a busboy. He then goes on to talk about the harrowing inspiration for his poem “Ku Klux Klan,” possibly my favorite of his poems. It is an inspiring, sobering, and truly powerful 4:30 minutes, and if you don’t listen to it you are a philistine of the highest order!
Download Langston Hughes discusses his career break while bussing tables, and reads his poem “Ku Klux Klan”