Assignment for Claude McKay’s poetry.
First, read the brief biographical essay, “Claude McKay’s Life,” by
Freda Scott Giles:
http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/m_r/mckay/life.htm or click here
After reading the essay and the two poems assigned—“Africa” and “America”—be prepared to respond to the following prompts and questions:
1. Summarize the attitude of the speaker of each poem toward his subject.
That is, what view is taken of Africa and America?
2. Giles notes that McKay’s first two volumes of poetry were “dialect verse”; that is, they were written using the language spoken by ordinary Jamaicans. How does the language of the two sonnets we are reading differ from dialect verse? Be able to cite specific examples in the poems to describe the style in which each is written.
3. We learn from Giles’s essay that Langston Hughes (our next poet) as well as other writers of The Harlem Renaissance—a period during the 1920s and 30s marked by explosive innovations in African-American art, literature, and music—was heavily influenced by McKay’s direct protest poetry. After reading Hughes, be prepared to discuss how his poetry differs from McKay’s both in structure and style.