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.