Friday, October 30, 2015

"The Genius Child" by Langston Hughes

This poem by Langston Hughes was part of a collection of his poetry published in 1958. I am unsure of which of his many published works it first appeared in. No matter; it made a great impression upon me when I was about 13 and first read it. I was reminded of it just this week while reading "One Righteous Man" by Arthur Browne. It is the story of Langston Hughes unpublished book about the life of Samuel Battle, New York City's first African-American Police Officer.

What makes this poem so unusual for Mr. Hughes is that it is a poem of personal despair. He wrote about his personal struggle between art and making a living in a letter to Maxim Lieber dated December 30, 1935. In that letter he said, “I’ll just let Art be a sidekick like it used to be in the days I was a busboy and was at least sure of my meals.” 

This poem is at least partially about the author and his longing to have a “normal” job, rather than being a sometimes broke author/poet/activist. Having a vision and trying to fulfill that dream is never an easy task; it is often a burden. It’s lucky for us Langston Hughes could carry that weight…

The Genius Child

This is a song for the genius child.
Sing it softly, for the song is wild.
Sing it softly as ever you can -
Lest the song get out of hand.

Nobody loves a genius child.

Can you love an eagle,
Tame or wild?
Can you love an eagle,
Wild or tame?
Can you love a monster
Of frightening name?

Nobody loves a genius child.

Kill him - and let his soul run wild.

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