Langston Hughes’ Poetic Homage to Helen Keller
“For, after all, every one who wishes to gain true knowledge must climb the Hill Difficulty alone, and since there is no royal road to the summit, I must zigzag it in my own way. I slip back many times, I fall, I stand still, I run against the edge of hidden obstacles, I lose my temper and find it again and keep it better, I trudge on, I gain a little, I feel encouraged, I get more eager and climb higher and begin to see the widening horizon. Every struggle is a victory. One more effort and I reach the luminous cloud, the blue depths of the sky, the uplands of my desire.”
In the dark,
Brighter than many ever see.
Through the soul’s own mastery.
And now the world receives
From her dower:
The message of the strength
Of inner power.
– Langston Hughes
HELEN KELLER (1880-1968) is a hugely compelling figure for so many of us, an inspiration. She was the first deaf and blind person to earn a B.A. – at Harvard University, no less. She was a writer and activist.
LANGSTON HUGHES (1902-1967) – also an inspiration – was a social activist and leader of the Harlem Renaissance, a poet, novelist, playwright, and columnist. Hughes was an early innovator of a new style in his time, jazz poetry – i.e. jazz-like rhythms, improvisational feel – and much of his poetry was on social justice themes. (Jazz poetry tends to be consider outsider art. It is the root of poetry slams and hip-hop.)