"The Negro Speaks of Rivers" by Langston Hughes is a lyric poem in free verse. Free verse poetry ignores the standard rules of meter, instead using the rhythms of ordinary conversation. Lyrical poems present the emotions of the poet, rather than telling a story or making a witty observation.
Langston Hughes wrote the poem when crossing the Mississippi River on a train at age 17 to visit his father in Mexico in 1920. It was published in 1921. The style and structure of the poem mimic a river. Langston Hughes wrote the poem from a first-person point of view with the speaker of the poem representing the black race.