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The Tropics in New York

Claude McKay 1889 (Clarendon Parish) – 1948 (Chicago)



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,

Set in the window, bringing memories
Of fruit-trees laden by low-singing rills,
And dewy dawns, and mystical blue skies
In benediction over nun-like hills.

My eyes grew dim, and I could no more gaze;
A wave of longing through my body swept,
And, hungry for the old, familiar ways,
I turned aside and bowed my head and wept.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Claude McKay

Festus Claudius "Claude" McKay was a Jamaican-American writer and poet, who was a seminal figure in the Harlem Renaissance. He wrote four novels: Home to Harlem, a best-seller that won the Harmon Gold Award for Literature, Banjo, Banana Bottom, and in 1941 a manuscript called Amiable With Big Teeth: A Novel of the Love Affair Between the Communists and the Poor Black Sheep of Harlem that has not yet been published. McKay also authored collections of poetry, a collection of short stories, Gingertown, two autobiographical books, A Long Way from Home and My Green Hills of Jamaica, and a non-fiction, socio-historical treatise entitled Harlem: Negro Metropolis. His 1922 poetry collection, Harlem Shadows, was among the first books published during the Harlem Renaissance. His Selected Poems was published posthumously, in 1953. McKay was attracted to communism in his early life, but he always asserted that he never became an official member of the Communist Party USA. However, some scholars dispute the claim that he was not a communist at that time, noting his close ties to active members, his attendance at communist-led events, and his months-long stay in the Soviet Union in 1922–23, which he wrote about very favorably. He gradually became disillusioned with communism, however, and by the mid-1930s, he had begun to write negatively about it. more…

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