I've Known Rivers (poetry inspired by Langston Hughes) - Eva Varga

December 14, 20133

Langston Hughes was one of the most important writers and thinkers of the Harlem Renaissance, which was the African American artistic movement in the 1920s that celebrated black life and culture. Hughes’s creative genius was influenced by his life in New York City’s Harlem, a primarily African American neighborhood.

His literary works helped shape American literature and politics. Hughes, like others active in the Harlem Renaissance, had a strong sense of racial pride. Through his poetry, novels, plays, essays, and children’s books, he promoted equality, condemned racism and injustice, and celebrated African American culture, humor, and spirituality.

Upon recently reading Langston Hughes’ poem, The Negro Speaks of Rivers, my children were inspired to write a poem of their own. Here’s Jeffrey’s …


I’ve Known Rivers


I’ve known rivers.

I’ve known the Rogue.

My papa taught me to cast,

to bait,

to reel in my catch.


I’ve known rivers.

I’ve known the Coquille.

The waves thrashing

and crashing against the rocky shore.


I’ve known rivers.

I’ve known the Sixes.

I found a snake, it took me to a world of nature.


I’ve known rivers.

I’ve known the Deschutes.

The snapping, crackling of the tiny waterfalls.


I’ve known rivers.

I’ve known the Sacramento.

The icy touch of the deep, dark as night.

The waves roaring, crashing on the rocks.


I’ve known rivers.

I’ve known the Yu Long.

The bamboo rafts floating

atop the emerald water.


I’ve known rivers.


~ by Jeffrey, age 8



You can read Langston Hughes’ original, The Negro Speaks of Rivers, posted on PoetryFoundation.org


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