poetry friday

The Negro Speaks of Rivers
by Langston Hughes, illustrated by E.B. Lewis

I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.

I looked upon the Nile and raised pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans,
and I’ve seen it’s muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I’ve known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

Langston Hughes, the major poet of the Harlem Renaissance, was just eighteen years old when he wrote his signature poem.  Now, E.B. Lewis, whose work I admire so deeply, has illustrated the poem in a stunning picture book.

Lewis’s watercolors are drenched in light, and these scenes, in which water plays a title role, are resplendent with light dancing on wavelets, glistening in droplets on sunbaked bodies, mellowing an evening scene with a golden glow.  The depth of emotion and life-experience he packs into the  individuals in these pages — their worn feet and loving embraces and dignified faces and strong hands — is really an incredible artistic experience.

This is a gorgeous book to share with a child, but the artistry in poem and painting is anything but childlike.  Don’t miss it.

Here’s an Amazon link:  The Negro Speaks of Rivers