"THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE'S FIRST BOOK OF POETRY": FIRST EDITION OF CLAUDE MCKAY'S HARLEM SHADOWS, 1922, THE "FIRST AND ONLY AMERICAN POETRY COLLECTION" PUBLISHED IN HIS LIFETIME
MCKAY, Claude. Harlem Shadows. The Poems of Claude McKay. New York: Harcourt, Brace, (1922). Octavo, original half navy cloth, original printed paper spine label. $4200.
First edition of the Jamaican-born McKay's groundbreaking volume of over 50 poems, together in book form for the first time, including his "calling card… the anthemic Shakespearean sonnet 'If We Must Die,' one of the landmark political poems of the 20th century," along with profoundly influential poems such as "The Harlem Dancer," "White City" and "The Lynching," a splendid copy in original cloth.
McKay, whose Harlem Shadows is "the Harlem Renaissance's first book of poetry," was a "proud child of Black Jamaica, diehard bohemian, globe-trotting radical." His poetry is "second to none in the Jamaican and Harlem cultural renaissances… James Weldon Johnson christened McKay as the 'most powerful voice' in postwar Black poetry and 'one of the principal forces in bringing about the Negro Literary Awakening.'" Yet this revolutionary work, which paid McKay "exactly $491.79 in lifetime royalties… [was] his first and only American poetry collection" published in his lifetime. A core poem in Harlem Shadows is the work considered McKay's "calling card… the anthemic Shakespearian sonnet If We Must Die, one of the landmark political poems of the 20th century… copied, recited and committed to memory ever since." Together with Harlem Dancer, Outcast, White City, Enslaved, Lynching and all others together in book form for the first time, McKay propelled "disciplined expressions of Black rage and resistance into the mainstream of African American literature… In signaling Black ironies from beneath the sonnet's upright white mask, he performs the specifically Black modernism maneuver Houston Baker names the 'mastery of form'" (Maxwell, Claude McKay—Lyric Poetry in the Age of Cataclysm). Containing McKay's "Author's Word"; Introduction by Max Eastman. First edition with no statement of edition or printings on the copyright page. With some poems earlier appearing in the journals Seven Arts, The Liberator, Pearson's and Cambridge Magazine. Blockson 5417.Blockson, Commented Bibliography 60. Work, 460.
Interior very fresh with trace of foxing mainly to preliminaries, bright original cloth. A beautiful about-fine copy.