Reading Claude McKay’s “The Tropics in New York” as a twentieth-century aesthetic equivalent of a slave provision ground, Posmentier argues that the poem asserts cultural autonomy even in the face of the dislocation it describes. In doing so, she suggests that formal lyric poetry can share the burdens and possibilities of these agricultural spaces, insofar as it takes shape in relationship to an oppressive colonial tradition while defining a black expressive form that resists its own utility within the postplantation aesthetic economy. Posmentier reads McKay’s American sonnet in the context of “Quashie to Buccra,” his earlier meditation on agricultural labor and the cultivation of poetic taste, to highlight the narrative of work omitted from the later poem. In fragmenting that narrative, “Tropics” generates an alternative temporality and spatiality of freedom.
1 June 2012