Claude McKay

Claude McKay

Claude McKay was one of the most influential figures of Harlem Renaissance in America. He was also a prominent figure in the broader literary world in the 1920s. The author of books including Songs of Jamaica, Harlem Shadows, and Selected Poems. Throughout his poetic career, he was dedicated to expressing the unique perspective of Black Americans.

Read more about the Jamaican-American poet, including Claude McKay’s best poems.

After the Winter

‘After the Winter’ by Claude McKay is a thoughtful and beautiful poem. Its speaker looks towards the future and considers the ideal life he’ll live with his partner.


‘America’ by Claude McKay balances ideas of loving and hating the United States. McKay explores the good parts of the country, the strength and vigor it contains as well as the bad.

Harlem Shadows

‘Harlem Shadows’ by Claude McKay memorably addresses the lives of Black sex workers in Harlem. The poet describes their experience while also acknowledging their strength.

If We Must Die

‘If We Must Die’ by Claude McKay powerfully encourages the reader to stand up for and with the Black community. One should show strength in the face of discrimination, he says.

Subway Wind

‘Subway Wind’ by Claude McKay is a beautiful and tragic poem. In it, the speaker describes a trapped city wind longing for the freedom of the seaside. 

Summer Morn in New Hampshire

‘Summer Morn in New Hampshire’ by Claude McKay describes how one speaker is unmoved by the brilliance of day as he is too consumed by his love for another. 

The Harlem Dancer

‘The Harlem Dancer’ by Claude McKay is a thoughtful poem about a dancer’s inner life. It speaks on the duality of what people see and what people experience.

The Spanish Needle

‘The Spanish Needle’ by Claude McKay is thoughtful and image-filled. The poet looks back on his speaker’s past and directs his words to a plant.

The Tropics in New York

‘The Tropics in New York’ by Claude McKay is a thoughtful poem about homesickness. It takes place in New York and includes a speaker’s longing for the elements of his home. 

To Winter

‘To Winter’ by Claude McKay is a love letter to the cold winter months. The narrator of the poem laments the arrival of spring, as it means the winter has ended.

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