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Friday, April 07, 2017

Poetry Friday--Happy Birthday, Billie Holiday!

Today would have been jazz singer Billie Holiday's 102nd birthday! She was born on April 7, 1915. By the time she was 20, Holiday had a recording contract. Sadly, due to alcohol and drug abuse, and the effects of relationships and legal problems, Holiday passed away at the age of 44.

Poet, Langston Hughes, wrote many poems related to jazz and jazz singers, so it is not surprising that he wrote a poem especially for her.
Song for Billie Holiday

What can purge my heart
     Of the song
     And the sadness?
What can purge my heart
     But the song
     Of the sadness?
What can purge my heart
     Of the sadness
     Of the song?

Do not speak of sorrow
With dust in her hair,
Or bits of dust in eyes
A chance wind blows there.
The sorrow that I speak of
Is dusted with despair.

Voice of muted trumpet,
Cold brass in warm air.
Bitter television blurred
By sound that shimmers–

Found in The Collected Poems Of Langston Hughes [811 HUG].

Head down to Live Your Poem where Irene is hosting the Poetry Friday Round-Up.


  1. Such a talented, tragic figure, so filled with life, yet taken too soon.

  2. Such a beautiful poem. I love the way that first stanza repeats itself, yet changes.

  3. I'm with Doraine! Though I also love that shimmering at the end...

  4. Lovely poem by Hughes. It gives such a tribute to Holliday. Isn't it amazing how he can shift the meaning so much be changing just a few words in the beginning stanza?