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Friday, February 29, 2008

Poetry Friday--Claude McKay

Happy Leap Year! Today's the last day of February, and it's an extra long month this year--one more day to celebrate Black History Month! Let's do that by looking at the poet, Claude McKay. Claude McKay was born in Jamaica in 1890 and started writing at the age of 10! He came to the U.S. to study at Tuskegee Normal School and by 1914 he ended up in New York City. He is known as one of Harlem Renaissance poets. In the foreword to the book, Harlem Stomp!: A Cultural History of the Harlem Renaissance by Laban Carrick Hill [810.9 HIL]. Nikki Giovanni writes,
In the early part of the twentieth century, Harlem was a hotbed of intellectual, artistic, literary, and political blossoming for Black people.

McKay's poetry could be called protest poetry as he attacked social issues head on. His poem, "The Lynching," is a prime example.

Other poems, though, deal with less weighty topics. Here's a portion of McKay's "The Snow Fairy":
Throughout the afternoon I watched them there,
Snow-fairies falling, falling from the sky,
Whirling fantastic in the misty air,
Contending fierce for space supremacy.
And they flew down a mightier force at night,
As though in heaven there was revolt and riot,
And they, frail things had taken panic flight
Down to the calm earth seeking peace and quiet.

To read the complete poem, click here.

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