"THEY ASKED ME… IF MY BLACKNESS, WOULD IT RUB OFF? I SAID, ASK YOUR MAMA": PRESENTATION/ASSOCIATION FIRST EDITION OF LANGSTON HUGHES' ASK YOUR MAMA, WONDERFULLY INSCRIBED BY LANGSTON HUGHES
HUGHES, Langston. Ask Your Mama. 12 Moods for Jazz. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1961. Oblong octavo, half white cloth with multi-colored paper-covered boards, original dust jacket.
First edition of Hughes' epic poem, hailed as a "milestone" in its celebration of African American blues, jazz and the tradition of the 'dozens', a memorable presentation/association copy inscribed by him in green and blue ink to a preeminent fellow poet, "Especially for Nancy Sullivan on the night of your awards, best wishes ever—Sincerely, Langston Hughes, Kansas City April 29, 1965."
Hughes had been reading his poetry with jazz musicians for decades before creating this innovative volume of jazz poetry, dedicated to Louis Armstrong. In this landmark work he "fused jazz and other black music with the form called the 'dozens', a ritual of genial insult rooted in African American culture. Each of the 12 sections of the poem is attended by musical cues that are integral to its poetic meaning." Arna Bontemps early wrote Hughes with praise, declaring Ask Your Mama "a milestone in your writing career" (Selected Letters, 370n). To his biographer Arnold Rampersad, "the poem amounts to a bristling challenge to the established American social and political order" (Smithsonian Magazine).
The recipient Nancy Sullivan was a highly respected poet and literary critic who, as highlighted in Hughes' inscription, was awarded the first annual Devins Memorial Award in 1965 for her first book, The History of the World in Pictures. Sullivan was, as well, a poetry fellow of the NEA and served for nearly a decade as chairman of the board of Yaddo, the prestigious artists' retreat whose famous writers included Langston Hughes in 1942, one of Yaddo's first African American writers. "First edition" stated on copyright page: portrait of Hughes on rear dust jacket panel from a photograph by Roy De Carava. Basis for the 2009 Carnegie Hall premiere of composer Laura Karpman's work, performed by renowned soprano Jessye Norman. Blockson 4712.
Book fine; light edge-wear, mild toning to spine of colorful near-fine dust jacket.