Poetry has always been something I’ve wanted to tackle. Although I’m fundamentally a hip hop head, I have a passion for lyrics. Rappers such as Common, Mos Def and Talib Kweli are able to tread the line between rap and spoken word.
The first poem I wrote in years was inspired by Langston Hughes’ infamous “Little Old Letter”. One of my modules for my Creative Writing Masters consisted of analysing the poem. My teacher gave us the poem before divulging any information on Langston himself. I obviously made my own assumptions, stating that he is a man broken hearted after receivng a letter from a loved one ending a relationship. In hindsight I believe that my assumption was very conventional. However, after receving a short bio on Langston’s life and the period of when the poem was written; I believe that I wasn’t too far away from understanding where he was coming from. It was a society that broke his heart. Rather being loved he was abhorred by those unable to see past the colour of his skin. Society was the woman he wanted to accept him, instead he was rejected. Thus making him a broken hearted man.
Living during an era where the colour of your skin determined your value as a human. The line “I never felt so lonesome, since I was born black” speaks volumes not only about society but his lifestyle as a whole. This simple line packs in all the stresses, traumas and hatred Langston would’ve gone through during his time. He ends the poem leaving us questioning what he did next?
This poem has many contemporary themes in accordance to bullying and the obvious yet neverending racism sagas we seem to encounter every week. The world we live in now is so technological, we seem to live our lives through the internet. I’m not one to condem that aspect; that would be hypocritical. However the last few lines of the poem which state
“Just a pencil and paper,
You don’t need no gun or knife
A little old letter
Can take a person’s life.”
are on par with the internet trolling that this generation is becoming best known for.
After re-thinking my own asumptions of this poem I was inspired to write my own version. I doubt it will ever hold its own against Langston’s but I wanted to create something that people can create numerous assumptions about.
As always any feedback would be great.
Greg J Allman.
Little Old Letter
A summer’s stroll down Memory Lane,
Life couldn’t be more pleasing;
The small words on the page
Gave me the reason
To travel down this path once more
For it’s been some time.
The news came in the morning,
A little after nine.
The photo attached took me back.
We’re walking on a rainbow;
I know you’ve revisited this day
Although you never say so.
You’ve found peace in your new state,
Some may say you’re for the birds.
But I can see your smiles
Through the curls in your words.
I wish you wrote me sooner
Before your timestamp was pressed
I guess I’ll deliver this little old letter
In hand to your new address.