Which American poet wrote, "Hold fast to dreams, For if dreams die, Life is a broken-winged bird, That cannot fly."  

And the answer: Langston Hughes.

Photo courtesy: Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Born in 1902 in the American city of Joplin, Missouri, Hughes became known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s. His poem "Dreams" is just eight lines long:

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Poet, novelist and playwright, Langston Hughes was a leading voice of the Harlem Renaissance. As one of the most visible members of the younger generation of Black poets, Hughes covered new topics and practiced new poetic forms to engage a wider audience.

After graduating high school, Hughes published his first and most popular poem: "The Negro Speaks of Rivers." This poem was one of the first in the American cannon to celebrate and dignify the image of Africa. As it was published in a widely-read Black journal, young Hughes was launched into the spotlight nearly immediately. Hughes' poetry and prose spoke to an everyday Black experience in America, and the young poet found great success in the accessibility of his works.

While studying at Columbia University in New York City, Hughes discovered the Harlem arts scene. Fascinated by jazz and blues, he spent hours at music venues and clubs, eventually coming to weave the rhythmic influences into his writing. The energy and vitality of such music was incredibly important to the style of his work, eventually going on to collaborate with some of the most prominent jazz artists of the time period such as the legendary Duke Ellington.

Throughout his life, Hughes supported himself and his community though his prolific body of works and passion to create. His influence, ambition, success and accessibility deserve recognition as one of the great American literary voices of the 20th century.

Read more about Hughes' life and legacy here.

Question of the Day Mobile App


Learn something new everyday. Get the Question of the Day delivered to your inbox each day!

You've successfully subscribed to Question of the Day
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access to Question of the Day
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.