Langston Hughes

1902-1967
Joplin, Missouri

Background

Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri on February 1, 1902. Later in his life he moved to Cleveland, Ohio. He went to Central High School and began writing poetry in the 8th grade but his father discouraged him from doing such things. Hughes's father told him to focus on doing something "more practical." He started college on the terms that his tuition would only be payed if he majored in engineering. At first he complied, but later dropped out and continued his life in poetry.

Langston Hughes was influenced very much by the poet Walt Whitman. He wrote about many subjects and political issues of the time, such as racism. Hughes was known for connecting with people through humor in his poems. He was an amazing writer of his time and in just forty years e wrote sixteen books of poems, two novels, three collections of short stories, four volumes of editorial and documentary fiction, twenty plays, children's poetry, musicals and operas, three autobiographies, a dozen radio and television scripts and dozens of magazine articles.

Life is Fine

I went down to the river,

I set down on the bank.
I tried to think but couldn't,
So I jumped in and sank.

I came up once and hollered!
I came up twice and cried!
If that water hadn't a-been so cold
I might've sunk and died.

But it was Cold in that water! It was cold!

I took the elevator
Sixteen floors above the ground.
I thought about my baby
And thought I would jump down.

I stood there and I hollered!
I stood there and I cried!
If it hadn't a-been so high
I might've jumped and died.

But it was High up there! It was high!

So since I'm still here livin',
I guess I will live on.
I could've died for love--
But for livin' I was born

Though you may hear me holler,
And you may see me cry--
I'll be dogged, sweet baby,
If you gonna see me die.

Life is fine! Fine as wine! Life is fine!