"What Happens to a Dream Deferred?" (03:28)
Harvard professor Elisa New examines Langston Hughes’s “Harlem” in this episode of “Poetry in America.” New explores this question with former President Bill Clinton and students from the Harlem Children’s Zone Promise Academy.
Herbie Hancock (06:05)
The jazz great improvises music based on “Harlem.” Clinton discusses the social context of Hughes’s poem. New meets poet Sonia Sanchez as the Shomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, where Hughes’s ashes are buried.
"Does it Dry Up Like a Raisin in the Sun?" (03:32)
New, Clinton and Hancock allude to the Great Migration of blacks from the South to urban areas in the North. Sanchez emphasizes the silence between the lines; she and others deconstruct the imagery of “a raisin in the sun.”
"Does it Stink Like Rotten Meat?" (02:40)
Clinton explores the poem’s allusions to “rotten meat” and “a syrupy sweet,” relating the imagery to growing up in the South.
"Maybe it Just Sags Like a Heavy Load ..." (01:40)
Participants examine Hughes’s next line. They relate it to the depression that results from dreams not being realized over an extended period of time.
",,, Or Does it Explode?" (02:57)
Participants confront the anger of the poem’s final line. “The other statements are almost resigning oneself to the sadness,” Hancock says. Sanchez recalls the death of a neighbor on 152nd Street in Harlem.
Across Generations (03:52)
Clinton imagines the poem being performed by a Greek chorus. Sanchez likens it to a dirge. “The tragic thing about this poem is that it’s not just situated in one little period,” she says. “For many of the African-Americans living in Harlem, it was generation after generation after generation.”
Credits: Harlem (00:42)
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