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.
“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