Complete Poems

Front Cover
University of Illinois Press, 2004 M01 29 - 405 pages

Containing more than three hundred poems, including nearly a hundred previously unpublished works, this unique collection showcases the intellectual range of Claude McKay (1889-1948), the Jamaican-born poet and novelist whose life and work were marked by restless travel and steadfast social protest. McKay's first poems were composed in rural Jamaican creole and launched his lifelong commitment to representing everyday black culture from the bottom up. Migrating to New York, he reinvigorated the English sonnet and helped spark the Harlem Renaissance with poems such as "If We Must Die." After coming under scrutiny for his communism, he traveled throughout Europe and North Africa for twelve years and returned to Harlem in 1934, having denounced Stalin's Soviet Union. By then, McKay's pristine "violent sonnets" were giving way to confessional lyrics informed by his newfound Catholicism.

McKay's verse eludes easy definition, yet this complete anthology, vividly introduced and carefully annotated by William J. Maxwell, acquaints readers with the full transnational evolution of a major voice in twentieth-century poetry.

 

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Contents

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
vii
Jamaican Periodical Poetry 191112
1
Songs of Jamaica 1912
19
Constab Ballads 1912
86
Early English and American Poetry 191622
130
Harlem Shadows 1922
152
The Clinic circa 1923
197
The Years Between 192534
208
Cities circa 1934
223
The Cycle circa 1943
241
Final Catholic Poetry 194547
270
NOTES TO THE POEMS
281
WORKS CITED IN NOTES TO THE POEMS
393
INDEX OF TITLES
401
Copyright

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About the author (2004)

A pioneer of black modernism, Claude McKay's varied and influential books include the poetry collections Harlem Shadows and Songs of Jamaica, and the novels Banjo, Home to Harlem, and Banana Bottom.

William J. Maxwell is an associate professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the author of the award-winning New Negro, Old Left: African-American Writing and Communism between the Wars.

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