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Favorite Poem Project: “Minstrel Man,” by Langston Hughes

A poetic tribute to Langston Hughes, who was born a hundred years ago Friday.

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  • POV CHIN, Student:

    My name is Pov Chin. I'm a student, and I want to become a teacher. I was reading a bunch of poetry. Like over the summer, I just got bored, and so I went and I saw Langston Hughes' poem. And it was really weird because I've never heard of Langston Hughes. And it was really weird, because I wanted originally to put in "The Loan" by Edgar Allen Poe, and I couldn't find it. And I flipped a page, and I saw this poem, "Minstrel Man," and I read it and I was like, "wow, this fits perfectly."

    "Minstrel Man," by Langston Hughes.

    Because my mouthIs wide with laughterAnd my throat Is deep with song, You do not think I suffer after I have held my pain So long?

    Because my mouth Is wide with laughter, You do not hear My inner cry? Because my feet Are gay with dancing, You do not know I die?


    I like it because it describes me. Like, I walk around with a smile on my face all the time at school and with friends and stuff, but I still have different thoughts running through my head. It's never stable. It's always going.

    My parents are originally from Cambodia, but I wasn't born in Cambodia. I was born in Thailand because they were having this genocide. Pol Pot was killing all the Cambodian people. And my parents thought they can't… They're not going to let their kids die. They're not going to give up. That's where I learned not to give up. And so they're going to get out. They're going to escape for their… I think what they thought of most of was us. They wanted us to see the world first. They didn't want us to end like that. So they escaped with my grandma, too. It's not just them. And they killed my grandma on the way, because they spread us up, and then my two brothers in front of their faces.

    And they just kept going. They kept running away at night. They gathered their kids from the camp, and they kept running and running. My mom was pregnant with me, and so my dad had a couple of the kids on his shoulders because they were really small. They were really young. We're three years apart, each one of us, except for now. Between my brother… me and my brother now, it's six because the one in the middle passed away, and then all this. And so they ran with the kids. They slept on grounds at night, hiding places, ditches, everywhere, anywhere they could. And then they got to a refugee camp on the border of Thailand. And while she escaping, she gave birth, and so I was born on the border of Thailand and Cambodia. And we're… luckily we had family here in America already, so they helped us get to America. I feel guilty about a lot of situations, that, hey, I'm here free. Or, I'm more better off than a lot of people in Cambodia, so it gives me a lot of guilt feeling that I'm not free to let it out. It's like, it's still there.

    And that's what links me is just saying… I mean, people there walk around. They put on a fake face, they smile, they laugh, they sell stuff at the market, but they know inside that it's, like, it's not there. It's not free.

    Because my mouth Is wide with laughterAnd my throatIs deep with song, You do not think I suffer after I have held my painSo long?

    Because my mouth Is wide with laughter,You do not hear My inner cry?Because my feetAre gay with dancing,You do not knowI die?