Fierce Hatred of Injustice: Claude McKay's Jamaican Poetry of Rebellion

Overview

Claude McKay remains one of the most influential intellectuals of the African Diaspora. Best remembered for his extraordinary poetry, his achievement in verse has been widely analyzed and praised. Yet in the welter of discussion about McKay, little has been said about his early writing in Jamaican. Two collections from the period, Songs of Jamaica and Constab Ballads, are more known about than known, and his poems for the Jamaican press, most of which have never been ...
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Overview

Claude McKay remains one of the most influential intellectuals of the African Diaspora. Best remembered for his extraordinary poetry, his achievement in verse has been widely analyzed and praised. Yet in the welter of discussion about McKay, little has been said about his early writing in Jamaican. Two collections from the period, Songs of Jamaica and Constab Ballads, are more known about than known, and his poems for the Jamaican press, most of which have never been anthologized, are rarely studied.

In A Fierce Hatred of Injustice, Winston James elegantly redresses this omission. Through a subtle and detailed consideration of McKay’s formative years on the island, James reviews the themes and politics of poetry which McKay began writing at the age of ten. Above all he focuses on the poet’s pioneering use of Jamaican creole revealing the way in which this laid a foundation for subsequent work by writers such as Louise Bennett, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Michael Smith. The volume concludes with a comprehensive anthology of the early poems together with a comic sketch about Jamaican peasant life by McKay and an autobiographical essay on his experiences in the Kingston police force.

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Editorial Reviews

George Lamming
“Professor James engages the reader in what is a virtual rediscovery of the essential features of the great Caribbean writer, Claude McKay. The boundaries of literature and history overlap in this meticulous unfolding of the social context that shaped the world of McKay's childhood and adolescence in Jamaica. It is a rare kind of critical investigation which will require that we all take a new look at the stature of Claude McKay.”
Arnold Rampersad
“For those of us who love Claude McKay and consider him vastly underappreciated, this book is a gift. McKay's early life in Jamaica and the dialect poetry of that period are astutely recreated and scrutinized here by Winston James in a book of distinct importance to American, African-American, and Caribbean studies. James brings to his task not only the exacting discipline of the trained historian but also the imaginative literary flair, shrewdly controlled, that is needed to understand the subtle textures of McKay's island origins.”
Linton Kwesi Johnson
“Winston James convincingly uses contextual analysis of the content of Claude McKay's two early collections of Jamaican dialect verse to locate the nascent world view which informed the poet's later work. A Fierce Hatred of Injustice is an illuminating contribution to the growing body of scholarship on the pioneering radical Jamaican poet.”
From the Publisher
“Professor James engages the reader in what is a virtual rediscovery of the essential features of the great Caribbean writer, Claude McKay. The boundaries of literature and history overlap in this meticulous unfolding of the social context that shaped the world of McKay’s childhood and adolescence in Jamaica. It is a rare kind of critical investigation which will require that we all take a new look at the stature of Claude McKay.”—George Lamming

“For those of us who love Claude McKay and consider him vastly underappreciated, this book is a gift. McKay’s early life in Jamaica and the dialect poetry of that period are astutely recreated and scrutinized here by Winston James in a book of distinct importance to American, African-American, and Caribbean studies. James brings to his task not only the exacting discipline of the trained historian but also the imaginative literary flair, shrewdly controlled, that is needed to understand the subtle textures of McKay’s island origins.”—Arnold Rampersad

“Winston James convincingly uses contextual analysis of the content of Claude McKay’s two early collections of Jamaican dialect verse to locate the nascent world view which informed the poet’s later work. A Fierce Hatred of Injustice is an illuminating contribution to the growing body of scholarship on the pioneering radical Jamaican poet.”—Linton Kwesi Johnson

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781859847404
  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Publication date: 3/28/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 5.73 (w) x 8.49 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Winston James is Professor of History at University of California Irvine.

Claude McKay was a Jamaican-American writer and poet. He was a seminal figure in the Harlem Renaissance and author of numerous works.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Prologue
Pt. I Beginnings
1 A Jamaican Childhood and Youth, 1889 to 1912 3
Pt. II An Analysis of McKay's Jamaican Poetry
2 Songs of Lament, Songs of Protest: An Introduction 55
3 The World of the Struggling Peasant 59
4 Constab Blues: Black Consciousness and Black Solidarity 68
5 Jamaican Nationalism and its Limits 91
6 Emergent Feminist Sympathies 100
7 On Cruelty 114
8 Religion and Christianity 124
9 Thoughts on Africa and Intimations of Negritude 128
10 The Weapon of Lyric Poetry 133
11 Peasants' Ways o' Thinkin': What is to be Done? 137
Epilogue: The Politics of Poetic Form and Content within the Colonial Context 139
App When Was McKay Born? A Controversy, a Document and a Resolution 152
Pt. III A Selection of McKay's Jamaican Writing
The Work of a Gifted Jamaican: An Interview with Claude McKay 165
From Songs of Jamaica 169
Quashie to Buccra 169
Whe' Fe Do? 170
King Banana 172
Hard Times 173
Cudjoe Fresh from de Lecture 173
Old England 175
A Midnight Woman to the Bobby 176
Killin' Nanny 177
My Native Land, My Home 178
Two-an'-Six 179
Strokes of the Tamarind Switch 183
My Pretty Dan 184
A Country Girl 185
My Mountain Home 187
From Constab Ballads 189
Flat-Foot Drill 189
De Dog-Driver's Frien' 190
Papine Corner 191
Cotch Donkey 193
A Recruit on the Corpy 194
Pay-Day 195
The Apple-Woman's Complaint 198
The Heart of a Constab 199
Fe Me Sal 200
The Bobby to the Sneering Lady 202
A Labourer's Life Give Me 203
Sukee River 204
From the Gleaner and the Jamaica Times 207
Agnes o' de Village Lane 207
George William Gordon to the Oppressed Natives 208
Passive Resistance 209
Christmas in de Air 210
Peasants' Ways o' Thinkin' 211
Bestman's Toast at a Rustic Wedding Feast 215
From Gingertown 217
When I Pounded the Pavement 217
Glossary 229
List of Abbreviations 231
Notes 233
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2001

    A spectacularly good read.

    In Jamaica our elementry school english teachers have always raved about Claude McKay but were never able to give us a true feel of the person he was. Mr. James has capture the essence of Claude McKay, his family and community in this book. The reader is allowed to experience what it was like for an intelegent, ambitious young black man seeking to discover his identity and his place in the wider society of turn-of-the-century(1900) Jamaica. The inclusion of some of Claude McKay's works in the second half of the book allows those readers unfamiliar with his writings to get an insight into his literary range. Mr. James is himself quite a good storyteller, his flowing style and vivid descriptions lends colour and body to all those long ago events and people who shaped the life of Jamaica's first literary hero.

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