Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger's tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I must confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth!
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate.
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time's unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.

     Claude McKay, an important writer of the the Harlem Renaissance, wrote “America” in 1921. The poem describes the speaker’s love-hate relationship with America. McKay considers the country to be “a cultured hell,” and yet he admits that he also can’t help loving and admiring the country. These two intense emotions come from two of the completely contradictory aspects of American culture that are most well known: oppression and freedom.
  One Harlem Renaissance theme in this poem is “determination to fight oppression.” Lines like “as a rebel fronts a king in state, / I stand within her walls with not a shred / Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer” show that although American culture is deeply rooted in racism, it wont always be that way. Equality is something worth fighting for, and African Americans are not just going to stand the hatred from racist whites. This poem reflects the hope and excitement of the Harlem Renaissance mixed with the equally important pain and struggle that was also going on.
  McKay uses personification to compare America to a female, perhaps a mother or even a romantic interest; someone who he theoretically despises, but can’t help depend on. Although she has wronged him and hurt him deeply, “Her vigor flows like tides into [his] blood.” She gives him the strength he needs to fight against her oppression. American culture is founded on racism and oppression, but also values freedom and equality, allowing the oppressed to fight back and win against inequality.
  I chose this poem because I relate to it so much; I truly love and hate this country. Although McKay is originally from Jamaica, he had a deep understanding of America that a lot of people don’t get. Not to mention it’s incredibly well written, with perfect meter and rhyme, and a compelling tone.


  1. I love this poem, especially the line "yet as a rebel fronts a king in state." I also like how you go into a little background when talking about the author and how is has to do with the meaning of the poem. Nice work!

  2. I know I love it too! & thanks man!

  3. Thank you for this comment about Mckay's America. I would like to have the same comment about Mckay's Baptism