After flipping through Hughes’ “The Weary Blues,” I settled on what is arguably the first page: the cover. Though Chinitz’s theories are focused on analyzing how the poems “negotiate the difficult task of bringing the form and the spirit of the folk blues into the print medium,” I want to analyze how the print medium plays into creating the blues spirit in the poems. Because my book cover is a facsimile of Michael Covarrubias’ original 1926 cover, I believe this bibliographic approach contributes to Hughes’ blues poetry, particularly his poem “The Weary Blues.”
Despite playing in the “dull pallor of an old gas light,” the pop of the yellow against the fiery red backdrop help contribute to the heat and liveliness of the blues music (Hughes 5). Though the pianist is in a simplified silhouetted profile, the image is far from sanitized. With his head tilted back, eyes closed, mouth open, and “his ebony hands on each ivory key,” the cover conveys the emotion and spirit of the blues despite explicit detail (Hughes 9). As the central figure, we cannot help but focus solely on the blues pianist. In this sense, we become like the spectator in the poem, placing us both in the narrator’s position and in the action. Not only does the figure’s position convey emotion, his highly stylized rendering is reminiscent of African art, a theme of which Hughes discusses later in the work. The multi-sensual cover allows us to see, hear, and feel Hughes’ blues poetry.
Hughes, Langston. “The Weary Blues.” The Weary Blues. Knopf, 1926, pp. 5.
Chinitz, D. “Literacy and Authenticity: The Blues Poems of Langston Hughes.” Callaloo, vol. 19 no. 1, 1996, pp. 177-192. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/cal.1996.0007