Poetry Sunday: America by Claude McKay

Claude McKay was a Jamaican writer who moved to the United States in 1912. He was a prominent and influential voice in the literary movement known as the Harlem Renaissance. In 1921, he wrote this poem expressing his feelings about America. I think many of us can appreciate and empathize with those feelings. I am particularly affected by that last stanza:

Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time’s unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.

Often the days ahead appear particularly dark just now and we may feel that we are sinking, but perhaps it really is darkest before the dawn. Here's hoping...


America

by Claude McKay

Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger’s tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth.
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate,
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet, as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time’s unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.

Comments

  1. I have serious doubts that it is the darkest before the dawn. I think that America is spiralling into decline and when a great democracy can only offer its people a choice between Joe Biden and Donald Trump it speaks of malaise writ large. Out of 330 millions of Americans this is the best you can do? I highly recommend "America, The Farewell Tour" by Chris Hedges.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You could be right, but I wouldn't write us off just yet, any more than Claude McKay would.

      Delete
  2. Excellent choice. I am currently reading a biography of James Baldwin, perhaps our most eloquent writer to the condition of racism in America. Last night I started my first book by Octavia Butler, whom I have been meaning to read for years. How long, oh Lord?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Baldwin certainly saw this country clearly for what it is as well as what it aspires to be. I've enjoyed all the books by Butler that I have read. Maybe I'll get to more of them one of these days...

      Delete
  3. What if Claude McKay had been able to see into the future - this is the first of his works I've read. I read James Baldwin in college, which was too many years ago, and I don't remember any of it. I'm more familiar with Octavia Butler's SF works than her dystopian literature, but I have read part of her Parable of the Sower. It was so painful I had to stop. She was an excellent writer who died too young.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Perhaps he did have some inkling of the future which may have been the impetus for this poem. It's been years since I read Baldwin as well. There seems to be renewed interest in his work just now and that is a good thing. I agree that the Parable books make for intense reading. I think I would find them hard to read at this moment.

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Poetry Sunday: Excerpt from The Cure at Troy by Seamus Heaney

Open Season (Joe Pickett #1) by C.J. Box - A review

Poetry Sunday: Invitation by Mary Oliver