The White City

By Claude McKay 1889–1948 Claude McKay
I will not toy with it nor bend an inch.
Deep in the secret chambers of my heart
I muse my life-long hate, and without flinch
I bear it nobly as I live my part.
My being would be a skeleton, a shell,
If this dark Passion that fills my every mood,
And makes my heaven in the white world’s hell,
Did not forever feed me vital blood.
I see the mighty city through a mist—
The strident trains that speed the goaded mass,
The poles and spires and towers vapor-kissed,
The fortressed port through which the great ships pass,
The tides, the wharves, the dens I contemplate,
Are sweet like wanton loves because I hate.

Claude McKay, "The White City" from Liberator (October 1921). Courtesy of the Literary Representative for the Works of Claude McKay, Schombourg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tildeen Foundations.

Source: Liberator (The Library of America, 2004)

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Poet Claude McKay 1889–1948

SCHOOL / PERIOD Harlem Renaissance

Subjects Living, Disappointment & Failure, Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity

Poetic Terms Sonnet

 Claude  McKay

Biography

Festus Claudius McKay, better known as Claude McKay, was a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance, a prominent literary movement of the 1920s. His work ranged from vernacular verse celebrating peasant life in Jamaica to fairly militant poems challenging white authority in America, and from generally straightforward tales of black life in both Jamaica and America to more philosophically ambitious fiction addressing . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Disappointment & Failure, Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity

SCHOOL / PERIOD Harlem Renaissance

Poetic Terms Sonnet

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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