That Year Again: Raymond Antrobus, Paul Mendez & Kevin Okoth on Claude McKay

‘Much of Claude McKay’s early work – including the poems in Harlem Shadows so often celebrated for peaceably ushering in the Harlem Renaissance – was produced in a moment of political tumult,’ Kevin Okoth wrote in a piece about McKay for the LRB last year. Harlem Shadows was published in 1922 and stands alongside the better-known masterpieces of that year in its distillation of the spirit of the age and its outsize influence. If it is only now starting to receive its due, perhaps that’s because it sounds nothing like ‘The Waste Land’: ‘For me,’ McKay wrote in his author’s note to the collection, ‘there is more quiet delight in “The golden moon of heaven” than in “The terra-cotta disc of cloud-land”.’

Okoth was joined to discuss Harlem Shadows in the context of McKay’s extraordinary life and work by the poet Raymond Antrobus, whose latest book includes a poem dedicated to McKay, and the author and LRB contributor Paul Mendez.