105 Ways to Give a Book

Poetry Friday: Langston’s Train Ride and ForeWord

I have an article over at ForeWord today, part two of my suggested Black History Month Picture Books. There’s some great stuff on the list, so be sure to take a look. Please.

Langston's Train RideOne of the books I included and totally love is Langston’s Train Ride, by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Leonard Jenkins. The fantastic illustrations make this book a complete pleasure to peruse, no doubt about that. But the reader will also enjoy being taken along on a journey with Langston Hughes as a young man. As he rides on a train across the country, he is moved by the crossing over the Mississippi River. Words and phrases rush into his head, especially the phrase, “I’ve known rivers,” which he jots down on an envelope.
My thoughts roam. Suddenly, I feel the history of my people flowing right up to this moment — to ME. Yes, I feel I’ve lived other lives on those muddy riverbanks. Somehow, somewhere, I’ve heard the dusky waters of all those rivers lapping and singing. It’s true, it’s true. I’ve known rivers.

I keep the envelope flat on my lap. I’m madly scribbling words down now, rapidly one after another. (Poems are like rainbows, don’t you think? They escape if you’re not quick!) I turn my head to get one last look at the sun-tinged Mississippi. Going, going, gone. I scrawl the last line:

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

And the poem is done.
Read and listen to the poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” at Poets.org. The Poetry Friday round-up is hosted by AmoXcalli. And don’t forget to check out my two-part piece on picture books for Black History Month over at ForeWord and comment with other picture book suggestions for the month.


Anonymous said...

MR, I can't find part II at ForeWord. Maybe they're going to post it later today? (Or maybe I need more coffee.)

MotherReader said...

It might not be posted yet. I sent it in a little, ahem, late. But I do expect to see it today and had to get my post up before I left for work today.

Anonymous said...

As soon as I saw mention of the train ride, I began reciting "The Negro Speaks of Rivers". So great. But I've not yet seen the book you mention, so I will seek it out.

Andromeda Jazmon said...

Langston's Train Ride is a new one for me too so I will have to look for it. I enjoyed your article at ForeWord. Great list of books there!

tanita✿davis said...

Oh, WOW, that's a cool story of how he wrote the poem!! I love books like this, that help enliven the things we're taught in school. Very cool!

laurasalas said...

I love this poem...one of my Hughes favorites. My favorite line besides the soul one is

"I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young."