"THE EMERGENCE OF BLACK LITERARY MODERNISM": FIRST EDITION OF CLAUDE MCKAY'S SPRING IN NEW HAMPSHIRE, 1920, A PIVOTAL WORK OF THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE FEATURING 31 POEMS TOGETHER IN BOOK FORM FOR THE FIRST TIME, WITH FRONTISPIECE PORTRAIT, IN ORIGINAL WRAPPERS
MCKAY, Claude. Spring in New Hampshire and Other Poems. London: Grant Richards, 1920. Slim octavo, original tan wrappers, original front cover label, uncut and unopened; pp. 40. $1500.
First edition of McKay's seminal volume of 31 poems including iconic works such as Harlem Dancer and The Lynching, published in London shortly before his return to America as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance, with frontispiece portrait, uncut and unopened in fragile original wrappers.
McKay's work is at the core of the Harlem Renaissance, where he gave "early expression to themes that have since figured prominently in black American writing." The Jamaican-born McKay published two volumes of poetry before he moved to the United States in 1912 and arrived in New York in 1914. After a brief return to Jamaica, he left for England in 1919. There he published Spring in New Hampshire before returning to America. This signal volume of 31 major poems, including "Harlem Dancer," "The Lynching," "In Bondage" and"Harlem Shadows," contains "the best poetry he had written since leaving Jamaica… verses of love, lost innocence and nostalgia for Jamaica alternated with poems in which McKay expressed anger, alienation and rebellion against the racial oppression he had faced"(Cooper, Claude McKay, 132).
Here "McKay's affection for the sonnet, the 'little song' of 14 lines his grand style favored," stands out, affirming his influential view of "the sonnet as an exceptionally transnational poetic design… In McKay's conception it ranked as a fellow vagabond equipped with centuries of worldly advice on living through the century of the color line. For him, the sonnet's thousand preceding voices whispered lessons for the emergence of black literary modernism" (Maxwell, ed., Complete Poems, xxxiv-vi). His sonnets are an elemental bridge between the "formally conventional critiques of racism offered by Phillis Wheatley, Frances E.W. Harper, James Corrothers and Paul Laurence Dunbar and the radically thematic and experimental affronts of those who came after him. Linking the past with the present, the old with the new, McKay's Harlem poetry… adds another dimension to our understanding of the complicated ways in which race, modernity and modernism intersect" (Hathaway et al., Race and Modern Artist, 64). With preface by I.A. Richards dated in print "September, 1920." All but five of the 31 poems here were reprinted in full in Harlem Shadows (1922), with "The Choice" (37) reprinted there as "The Wild Goat" (Hathaway, 57n). "Love Song," "Reminiscences," "Sukee River"(second version) appeared in Cambridge Magazine (Summer 1920); "Harlem Dancer" appeared in Seven Arts under an alias (1917), with other select poems appearing in Pearson's and The Liberator. Blockson 6467.
Interior very fresh with mere trace of foxing. Highly desirable uncut and entirely unopened in original wrappers. A fine copy.