Thursday, August 21, 2008

Dream Deferred

I'd never really understood Langston Hughe's poem "Harlem" or "A Dream Deferred." Then, I heard it read by Morgan Freeman for one of the Olympics commercials...and it made sense. Call me a literary idiot, but I just didn't GET IT until then- I think I thought that he was talking about a dream that you have while asleep.

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

We read it in high school, and I would challenge that high schoolers really have no business reading it, or at least reading it for being understood. Read it for historical perspective, possibly. But, I think it takes an adult to understand "dream deferred." I think you have to have had a "dream deferred" to understand it.

I also looked up the Merriam-Webster definition of "deferred"-- "to put off, delay OR withheld for or until a stated time."

That's the power of this poem, and of dreams--Langston Hughes didn't say a dream demolished, or's been deferred (but still has the possibility of exploding).

I think mine right now is somewhere between festering like a sore or rotting like meat... or sagging like a heavy load-- it basically depends on the hour of the day and who I see in passing or who I'm with.

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