"Spring Poets Tune Up Their Lyres."

by Edith  A.  Talbot

Spring publications in the field of poetry are meagre. No one book of superior excellence stands out, although there are a number of volumes in which the public will take more or less interest...

More conservative measures are to be discovered in "Harlem Shadows," by Claude McKay. This young negro is responsible for a bulk of poetry that seems quite new from his race. In the past we have judged the negro in poetry by Paul Lawrence Dunbar and other writers who kept more or less closely to the dialect medium. Mr. McKay does not employ dialect at all. He strives to portray the spirit of the modern negro in a high and lofty manner.

Most of the time he succeeds, although it must be admitted that certain portions of his book unravel into mere sentiment. Such efforts as his "Flame Heart," however, exhibit admirably the deal of color that he can capture in his stanzas. This poem is too long to quote, so Mr. McKay must be represented by "Heritage," a finely worded lyric of genuine strength

Now the dead past seems vividly alive, And in this shining moment I can trace. Down through the vista of the vanished years. Your faun-like form. your fond elusive face. [source] And suddenly some secret spring's released, An unawares riddle is revealed. And I can read like large, black-letter print, What seemed before a thing forever sealed. [source] I know the magic word, the graceful thought, The song that fills me in my lucid hours The spirit's wine that thrills my body through, And makes me music-drunk, are yours, all yours, I cannot praise, for you have passed from praise, I have no tinted thoughts to paint your true; But I can feel and I can write the word; The best of me is but the least of you. [source]


Talbot, Edith A.. "Spring Poets Tune Up Their Lyres." New York Times Book Review and Magazine (May 14, 1922).


This excerpt considers McKay's Harlem Shadows, but the longer review treats a total of 12 works:


Harlem Shadows (1922)

Additional Poems by Claude McKay

Contemporary Reviews

Supplementary Texts