Bananas ripe and green, and ginger root Cocoa in pods and alligator pears, And tangerines and mangoes and grape fruit, Fit for the highest prize at parish fairs, Sat in the window, bringing memories of fruit-trees laden by low-singing rills, And dewy dawns, and mystical skies In benediction
Claude McKay was born in Jamaica, on September 15, 1889. He was educated by his older brother, who possessed a library of English novels, poetry, and scientific texts.
At the age of twenty, McKay published a book of verse called Songs of Jamaica, recording his impressions of black life in Jamaica in dialect. In 1912, he travelled to the United States to attend Tuskegee Institute. He remained there only a few months, leaving to study agriculture at Kansas State University.
In 1917, he published two sonnets, "The Harlem Dancer" and "Invocation," and later used the form in writing about social and political concerns from his perspective as a black man in the United States. McKay also wrote on a variety of subjects, from his Jamaican homeland to romantic love, with a use of passionate language.
During the twenties, McKay developed an interest in Communism and travelled to Russia and then to France where he met Edna St. Vincent Millay and Lewis Sinclair. In 1934, McKay moved back to the United States and lived in Harlem, New York. Losing faith in Communism, he turned his attention to the teachings of various spiritual and political leaders in Harlem, eventually converting to Catholicism.
McKay's viewpoints and poetic achievements in the earlier part of the twentieth century set the tone for the Harlem Renaissance and gained the deep respect of younger black poets of the time, including Langston Hughes. He died on May 22, 1948.
Constab Ballads (1912)
Harlem Shadows (1922)
Selected Poems (1953)
Songs of Jamaica (1912)
The Dialect Poetry of Claude McKay (1972)
The Passion of Claude McKay (1973)
A Long Way from Home (1937)
Harlem: Negro Metropolis (1940)
The Negroes in America (1979)
Banana Bottom (1933)
Banjo: A Story Without a Plot (1929)
Home to Harlem (1928)
My Green Hills of Jamaica (1979)
Trial By Lynching (1977)