April 2, 2018

Poems to Help Your Public Speaking: Langston Hughes & April Rain

Resources , The Buckley Experience , Poems to Read Aloud

The Buckley School's founder believed that all public speakers should hone their presentation skills by reading poetry out loud. We keep that worthwhile practice alive by including a poem in our magazine each month for you to read aloud.


"He spread his message humorously—though always seriously—to audiences throughout the country, having read his poetry to more people (possibly) than any other American poet.”

– Donald B. Gibson, writing about Langston Hughes in "Modern Black Poets: A Collection of Critical Essays"

From the 1920s to the 1960s, Langston Hughes wrote poems, novels, short stories, plays (eleven of them), opera, essays and works for children. He was a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance and helped create the literary art form known as jazz poetry.

Born in 1902 in Joplin, Missouri, Hughes spent  his early years with his grandmother in Lawrence, Kansas. In grammar school, he was elected class poet and wrote his first jazz poem, "When Sue Wears Red," while in high school.

He attended Columbia University, left, traveled to Africa and Europe, then returned to college, graduating from Lincoln University where he was classmates with Thurgood Marshall. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, and his first novel won the Harmon gold medal for literature.

A few of the many books by Langston Hughes

Though he traveled throughout his life, Harlem was his primary home. Hughes died in New York City in 1967. His residence at 20 East 127th Street has been given landmark status by the New York City Preservation Commission and East 127th Street has been renamed "Langston Hughes Place.” 


April Rain Song


Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
And I love the rain.


Poets.org provides this guide to a walking tour of Hughes's Harlem. Below, the New York Botanical Garden's rendition of "April Rain Song."


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