Tuesday, May 31, 2011
In Re: Yesterday's Notice on Langston @ the Blue Light
We are inspired by our reading in the book of Langston* to move out in two directions: 1) we want to stay close to the primary sources, because what is said about Langston and what he accomplished are not always in each others' earshot and we think respect for ancestors means that you can hear them call you; 2) we know that his existence in print is not all that is written in the book, and that he left behind a body of music, radio performances, television performances, and ephemera that compose a way of knowing the world that exceeds our way of knowing Langston. We want to know that excess.
Our attention span is long, and moves in widening gyres, but the center has held for 35 years, so we have faith that we will circle back on this subject from time to time. But we must remark at this moment at how thin the record really is. And this in spite of the Missouri Project, which at least gathers the operas and gospel plays, and treats the children's literature as a part of his literary oeuvre. Or the summaries like the ones @ the poetry foundation, which boil down to a a writer's cv.
We find the Langston Hughes papers @ the Johnson library intriguing, but wish they'd get some graduate student by the scanner and share more. The Schomburg Center shows off its stuff in the same parsimonious and teasing manner (we don't want to hate, ever, but the fact that Schomburg, one of the pre-eminent archives in the wide world, is still boasting about the choice for frames in its html layout is sad admission to the state of affairs). The Library of Congress puts him on the list of noteworthy February 1 occurances. Designed as lockers full of papers, these places cannot really be held accountable for being what they aren't, but we should remark that one thing missing is the sense of Hughes as an artist who cared about what the moving image or performed words and music.
Therefore, we will make it one of our missions to circle back on this aspect of Hughes's work from time to time. We suspect that since the internets are not miraculous enough to bring all of these materials to us, that we will have to show up.
:: pours a little liquor on the ground ::
First, like Pops, he exceeds critical efforts to describe him in terms of genre or media. Langston Hughes worked opportunity, not "the novel," or "poetry," or "autobiography." It is in this light that we should make a conscious effort to explore all of the objects in the archive. You can see this, as we have noted before, in R&'s most excellent record of the poet's life, where apparently trivial tasks, like making the musical Simply Heavenly, spill way more ink on his pages than making the book Montage of a Dream Deferred."