Countee Cullen: Collected Poems
The Black Modern
Poets of the Harlem Renaissance faced a challenge above and beyond that of their modern contemporaries. The two groups were unified in their struggle to make sense of a chaotic reality. But Black poets writing in Harlem confronted a compounded predicament because their race further isolated them from a society that all Moderns struggled to relate to. In the context of a society that was confusing at best, poets endeavored to synthesize what they saw as a fragmented culture. Black soldiers returning from World War I had trouble re-adjusting to segregated life, as they had grown accustomed to more equal treatment abroad. Concurrent with divisions of race was a transformation of the poetic movement. It experienced a revolution of form, content, and function, as poets reacted to a turbulent culture. In addition, poets struggled to adapt to a new readership and its new expectations. Though all Modernist poets faced this struggle, black poets faced it from the edge of society. They were marginalized not just for their blackness, but also for the way they chose to react to the Modern dilemma. Blacks and whites alike criticized Langston Hughes for his informal style. Members of his own community disparaged him for not writing at the...
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