I had no idea that this poem was called ‘Harlem’.  I thought the poem took the first line as a title.  It was certainly the title I knew it by.  However, here it is with its correct title.


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?

Langston Hughes
I first came across this poem when reading a book by inspirational educator, Jonathan Kozol.  He was a teacher in Boston, USA but was sacked from his job for using this poem with children.  He describes this incident in his 1967 book called ‘Death at an Early Age’.  The poem itself was first published in 1951.
‘Harlem’ is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?

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