The Tropics in New York
by Claude McKay
Bananas ripe and green, and ginger-root,
And tangerines and mangoes and grape fruit,
Fit for the highest prize at parish fairs,
Set in the window, bringing memories
And dewy dawns, and mystical blue skies
My eyes grew dim, and I could no more gaze;
A wave of longing through my body swept,
And, hungry for the old, familiar ways,
I turned aside and bowed my head and wept.
Learn about Claude McKay with our “Fast Facts,” and dig deeper into the poem with questions in the “Questions” tab. Questions for older students (questions 1-3) focus on the poem’s metaphors, while questions for younger readers (questions 4-5) focus on the emotions in the poem.
Claude McKay wrote powerfully about life in both Jamaica and the United States. He also wrote about the racism and prejudice he had to deal with. His most famous poem is probably “America,” which starts with these lines:
“Although she feeds me the bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger’s tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth.”
Claude McKay became one of the most famous and influential members of the Harlem Renaissance. He traveled throughout Europe, and even lived in London, England, for several years.
Claude McKay moved to New York City, New York, where he quickly became one of the most important poets of the Harlem Renaissance. Sometimes called the “New Negro Movement,” the Harlem Renaissance was a movement focusing on African-American art and culture. Other artists associated with the Harlem Renaissance include the poet Langston Hughes, the dancer Josephine Baker, the novelist Zora Neale Hurston, the actor Paul Robeson, the musician Duke Ellington, and the painter Jacob Lawrence.
Claude McKay moved to the United States to attend college. He went to the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama, and Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, but did not graduate.
Claude McKay was born in Jamaica in 1889. Today, he is the national poet of the island nation.
nickname for an avocado. Also called an "alligator fruit."
form of blessing or good wishes.
all weather conditions for a given location over a period of time.
first appearance of daylight in the morning.
native to a specific geographic space.
material, usually of plant or animal origin, that living organisms use to obtain nutrients.
steady look or line of sight.
state of being alone or separated from a community.
full or heavy with.
technique or method a writer uses to structure their work or produce an effect, such as metaphor or hyperbole.
strong, emotional desire.
word or phrase used to represent something else, or an understanding of one concept in terms of another concept.
story or telling of events.
sentimental or bittersweet desire for elements (feelings, people, materials) important in the past.
woman who has taken vows dedicating her life to spiritual practice, usually referring to nuns of the Catholic faith.
political division, similar to a county.
thick casing of some seeds, such as legumes or cocoa.
very small stream.
region generally located between the Tropic of Cancer (23 1/2 degrees north of the Equator) and the Tropic of Capricorn (23 1/2 degrees south of the Equator).