African American Poetry (1870-1928): A Digital Anthology


Poems by African American poets that engage Blues music, or that use the Blues form. Blues singing was likely created in the deep south sometime in the 19th century, though it began to be recorded and published as such in the early 20th century. The first sheet blues sheet music was published in 1908, and by the 1920s blues songs were being recorded and entered into wide circulation in African American popular culture. 

As readers will surely see from the list of poems tagged below, Langston Hughes was particularly enthusiastic about this form, and included many verses in this form in his 1927 collection, Fine Clothes to the Jew

In that collection, Hughes included the following "Note," indicating how he was defining the Blues as a poetic form: 

The first eight and the last nine poems in this book are written after the manner of the Negro folk-songs known as Blues. The Blues, unlike the Spirituals, have a strict poetic pattern: one long line repeated and a third line to rhyme with the first two. Sometimes the second line in repetition is slightly changed and sometimes, but very seldom, it is omitted. The mood of the Blues is almost always despondency, but when they are sung  people laugh.

Scholars of poetry would agree with Hughes' characterization, and describe structure of the Blues as following an "AAB" pattern. 

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