Claude McKay Quotes

Quotes from the Writing of Claude McKay

“I have not used patterns, images and words that would stamp me a classicist nor a modernist. My intellect is not scientific enough to range me on the side of either; nor if my knowledge wide enough for me to specialize in any school. I have never studied poetics; but the forms I have used I am convinced are the ones I can work in with the highest degree of spontaneity and freedom. I have chosen my melodies and rhythms by instinct, and I have favored words and figures which flow smoothly and harmoniously into my compositions. And in all my moods I have striven to achieve directness, truthfulness and naturalness of expression instead of an enameled originality. I have not hesitated to use words which are old, and in some circles considered poetically overworked and dead, when I thought I could make them grow alive by new manipulation. Nor have I stinted my senses of the pleasure of using the decorative metaphor where it is more truly and vividly beautiful than the exact phrase. But for me there is more quiet delight in ‘The golden moon of heaven’ than in ‘The terra-cotta disc of cloud-land.'”
— from the Author’s Word in Harlem Shadows

“Oh, to be in Harlem again after two years away. The deep-dyed color, the thickness, the closeness of it. The noises of Harlem. The sugared laughter. The honey-talk on its streets. And all night long, ragtime and ‘blues’ playing somewhere, … singing somewhere, dancing somewhere! Oh, the contagious fever of Harlem.”
— from Home to Harlem

“This awful key to my infinity
Conspires to rob me of sweet joy and grace.”
— from “I Know My Soul”

“For Passion and all the pleasures it can give will
die the death;
But this of me eternally must live, they borrowed
— from “A Prayer”

“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!”
— from “America”

“I shall return again; I shall return
To laugh and laugh and watch with wonder-eyes
At golden noon the forest fires burn,
Wafting their blue-black smoke to sapphire skies.”
— from “I Shall Return”


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