Poet Quoted At Supreme Court/Poet’s Statue Protected – Poetry News Roundup March 28th

We begin the week with a look at the poet who was quoted at a supreme court confirmation hearing, and the work going on to protect a statue of a national poet.

The History of a Poem Used at Confirmation Hearing

During the recent confirmation hearing for the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Senator Cory Brooker chose to read aloud from a poem in support of the nomination. The poem, written by Langston Hughes was “Let America Be America Again” and the lines that he read aloud were:


The full poem, and its quite a long one, was first published in 1936 in Esquire. It captures the vast range of feelings of the members of the American under class who begged the country to fulfil the promises that they had stated to them. It is as relevant today as it was when it was written – which is why its use by Senator Cory Brooker was so important for this occasion.

The people who the poem is looking at are those who were poor, Black or Indigenous, those who it says were
it is believed that Hughes wrote the poem following the crushing experience that he endured following the production of one of his pieces of work, a play titled “Mulatto.” The producer of the show made significant changes to the work and added a scene which included a rape. The play was panned by the critics who said that it was lacking in merit and also for the way in which it treated interracial relationships.

Hughes was not able to persuade the producer to change the play back to how he had written it or contact his agent, so he got on a train, and it was during this journey that he began writing. He wanted to capture the pain that he was feeling, and poetry gave him the perfect vehicle with which he could achieve this.

Sandbags to Save a Poet’s Statue

In the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, work has begun to erect sand barriers around a number of the statues in order to protect them. One statue of particular importance is that of Taras Shevchenko, the countries national poet, not only was he considered to be one of the foremost bards of the nineteenth century, but he was also one of the first to write poetry in Ukrainian.

Since 1991 when the country gained independence, every city in Ukraine has had a square or an avenue named for the poet and the university in Kyiv, the largest in the country, is also named after him.

The statue in question is the largest one in the city at 52 feet, 16 metres high, and is made of black cast iron, it has been in place since 1935 and plays a particularly important part in the life and culture of the city. Workers are trying to ensure that despite the war raging around it, everything that can be done is done so that it is protected against damage.

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