"Claude McKay."

We have the good fortune to publish month a page of sonnets and songs by a negro poet practically unknown to the public, who seems to have a greater and more simple and strong gift of poetry than any other of his race has had. Claude McKay is a native of Jamaica, who came to this country seven years ago to study scientific agriculture. He graduated from an agricultural college in the west, but for reasons that I suppose are personal did not return, as he had planned, to his own lazy island. He stayed in America, living the active life of the northern negroes, only with a more wandering will and more song on his lips.

At the time when these poems were written he was a waiter in a dining-car—a position from which he was able to see a great many things and understand them with a bold and unhesitating mind. His attitude toward life is like Shelley's, free and yet strenuously idealistic. I think his conscience is a little more austere in matters of social conduct than in matter of art. I wish he would write more poems as mettlesome and perfectly chiselled throughout as some of his stanzas are. And I think he will, for he is young and he has arrived at the degree of power and skill revealed in these poems practically without encouragement or critical help. To me they show a fine clear flame of life burning and not to be forgotten.


"Claude McKay." The Liberator (July, 1919).


This short note appeared in the July, 1919 issue of The Liberator. That same issue featured a number of poems by McKay under the title "Sonnets and Songs by Claude McKay."

A PDF of this issue of The Liberator is available from the Marxists Interent Archive.


Harlem Shadows (1922)

Additional Poems by Claude McKay

Contemporary Reviews

Supplementary Texts