Born in 1902 in Missouri, Langston Hughes was an African- American novelist, activist and poet mainly known for having introduced jazz poetry. Hughes great grandfathers were slave owners, while his great grandmothers were enslaved (Poets.org, 2016). His father, on the other hand, separated from his mother and moved to Mexico in an attempt to escape the racism that was then very rampant in the US. Hughes began his poetry in high school, and was later on as an adult, exposed by the Vachel Lindsay the poet (Poetry Foundation, 2016). The poem ‘Visitor to the Black Belt’ is one among the many poems of Hughes’ that have been published since then.
Stylistic devices in the poem
The irony projected herein is that the outsiders, who are presumably white people, act as if they know what life is like in Harlem, when in real sense, they do not. This is because the same outsiders only go there to visit, and then go back to their places. The author projects that it is only by getting to know those who live in Harlem that these outsiders can get to understand what the exact situation is. In light of this, Hughes uses imagery by explaining that the hallways are packed with garbage, and the kitchens have no heating. This depiction draws a mental image depicting the place as an unpleasant and uninhabitable one. In this context, the usage of allegory is also evident. Even though the author tells the outsider to ask him who he is, this is implied. By stating “Ask me who am I” Hughes requires of the outsider to understand life in Harlem in general and not his life as an individual in specific.
The poem also incorporates rhythm throughout where the author begins several expressions with ‘You can,' and ‘To me.' This help informs the reader on what to expect in the phrases to follow. Lastly, alliteration is used in the phrases ‘To me it’s here ‘and ‘To me it’s hell,' where the same consonants are used at the beginning of the words ‘here’ and ‘hell.'
Poets.org (2016). Langston Hughes. Retrieved December 3, 2016, from: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/langston-hughes.
Poetry Foundation (2016). Langston Hughes. Retrieved December 3, 2016, from: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poets/detail/langston-hughes
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