Claude McKay's Early Poetry (1911-1922): A Digital Collection

Selected Poems of Claude McKay (1953)

Selected Poems of Claude McKay is the final collection of his poems authored by Claude McKay; it was published by Bookman & Associates in 1953 with an introduction by John Dewey. Subsequently, the Selected Poems was widely reprinted by Harvest/HBJ -- with the Dewey introduction replaced by a biographical note by Max Eastman. 

Wayne Cooper indicates that Claude McKay put together this particular collection himself in his final year (1948); the collection was finally published posthumously in 1953. As far as we know, there is no indication that McKay intended for the selection to be restrictive, which is to say, by including this particular selection he was not necessarily disowning his other writing. It's worth noting that despite his turn, later in life, to a committed anti-Communist politics, McKay did keep many of his more passionate anti-racist poems in the collection (see the "Baptism" section). 

The majority of the poems were taken from McKay's early poetry -- specifically from Harlem Shadows. Where McKay elected to include a poem published later -- especially where we are unclear about copyright questions -- we have not included the full text of the poem on this site. Intriguingly, poems from Constab Ballads and Songs for Jamaica are both almost entirely absent from Selected Poems. The one exception is "Sukee River," though the version McKay included here combines the first verse of the 1912 version of the poem (from Constab Ballads) with the 1920 version (from Cambridge Magazine and Spring in New Hampshire). 

The main novelty of this collection consists of the thematic groupings McKay created around his poems: "Songs for Jamaica," "Baptism,"  "Americana," "Different Places," and "Amoroso." "Songs for Jamaica" are largely poems from Harlem Shadows that deal with "Home" (and indeed, the list of poems McKay picked out here overlaps with the "Home" tag on this site, derived independently from our interpretations of McKay's poems). Poems under "Baptism" largely deal with race-relations in the United States (compare to our "Race" tag). And "Amoroso" corresponds to our "Desire" and "Homoeroticism" tags. 

Table of Contents

Songs for Jamaica
Flame Heart
The Easter Flower
Spring in New Hampshire
Summer Morn in New Hampshire
Sukee River * 
Homing Swallows
To One Coming North
North and South
Home Thoughts
My Mother
December, 1919
The Spanish Needle
The Plateau
Wild May
The Wild Goat
After the Winter
The Tropics in New York
I Shall Return

If We Must Die
The Lynching
To the White Fiends
In Bondage
Enslaved (new) *
O Word I Love to Sing
Like a Strong Tree (new) *
The Wise Men of the East
The Pagan Isms
The Negro's Tragedy
The Negro's Friend
The Desolate City
A Prayer
I Know My Soul

Harlem Shadows
The Harlem Dancer
When Dawn Comes to the City
On the Road
Dawn in New York
The City's Love
On Broadway
French Leave
A Song of the Moon (see "Moon Song" [1922])
Morning Joy
Winter in the Country
To Winter
The Castaways
The White City
Subway Wind
Alfonso, Dressing to Wait at Table
Rest in Peace
The White House
The Tired Worker
The Barrier

Different Places
St. Isaac's Church, Petrograd
A Farewell to Morocco

A Red Flower
To O.E.A.
Flower of Love
The Snow Fairy
A Memory of June
One Year After
Through Agony

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