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Complete Poems
by Claude McKay

    Publication Date:
    List Price: $42.00
    Format: Hardcover, 456 pages
    Classification: Poetry
    ISBN13: 9780252028823
    Imprint: University of Illinois Press
    Publisher: University of Illinois Press
    Parent Company: University of Illinois
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    Book Description:

    Containing more than three hundred poems, including nearly a hundred published here for the first time, this collection showcases the range and dynamism of Claude McKay (1889-1948), the Jamaican-born poet whose life and poetry were marked by restless travel and steadfast social protest. His first poems were composed in rural Jamaican dialect and launched his lifelong commitment to representing everyday black culture from the bottom up. McKay migrated to New York, reinvigorating the standard English sonnet and helping to spark the Harlem Renaissance with poems such as "If We Must Die."Coming under scrutiny for his Bolshevist views, McKay left America in 1922 and spent twelve years traveling the world. When he returned to Harlem in 1934, having denounced Stalin’s Soviet Union, his pristine "Violent Sonnets" gave way to confessional lyrics strongly informed by his newfound Catholicism. McKay eludes easy definition, which is why this complete anthology, vividly introduced and carefully annotated by William Maxwell, is at once necessary and rewarding. Here the reader can trace the complex, transnational evolution of a major voice in twentieth-century poetry.

    If We Must Die

    If we must die, let it not be like hogs
    Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
    While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
    Making their mock at our accurs d lot.
    If we must die, O let us nobly die,
    So that our precious blood may not be shed
    In vain; then even the monsters we defy
    Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
    O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
    Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
    And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
    What though before us lies the open grave?
    Like men we'll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
    Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!  

    If We Must Die

    If we must die, let it not be like hogs
    Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
    While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
    Making their mock at our accurs d lot.
    If we must die, O let us nobly die,
    So that our precious blood may not be shed
    In vain; then even the monsters we defy
    Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
    O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
    Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
    And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
    What though before us lies the open grave?
    Like men we'll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
    Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!  


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