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Saturday, September 15, 2018

Songs to Life

“If a man is not faithful to his own individuality, he cannot be loyal to anything.” – Claude McKay

Born in Jamaica on this date in 1889, McKay was the son of peasant farmers, who was infused with racial pride and a great sense of his African heritage. His 1912 book of poems, Songs of Jamaica, about Jamaican peasant life, established his credentials as a leading black poet.  And, while he wrote poetry for most of his life, he also had many novels and short stories, including 1928’s Home To Harlem about New York City’s black ghetto life.     It is arguably considered the first commercially successful novel by a black writer. 

For Saturday’s Poem, here is McKay’s,

To A Poet

There is a lovely noise about your name,
Above the shoutings of the city clear,
More than a moment's merriment, whose claim
Will greater grow with every mellowed year.

The people will not bear you down the street,
Dancing to the strong rhythm of your words,
The modern kings will throttle you to greet
The piping voice of artificial birds.

But the rare lonely spirits, even mine,
Who love the immortal music of all days,
Will see the glory of your trailing line,
The bedded beauty of your haunting lays.

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