The Tropics in New York

The Tropics in New York

A immigrant is reminded of home in Claude McKay’s short poem.


3 - 12+


English Language Arts, Geography


Still Life

Still-life photograph of foods on a table.

Photograph by Paulette Tavormina, National Geographic

The Tropics in New Yorkby Claude McKay Bananas ripe and green, and ginger-root, Cocoa in pods and alligator pears,And tangerines and mangoes and grape fruit, Fit for the highest prize at parish fairs, Set in the window, bringing memories Of fruit-trees laden by low-singing rills,And dewy dawns, and mystical blue skies In benediction over nun-like hills. 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. Discussion IdeasLearn 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.

Fast Fact

Claude McKay was born in Jamaica in 1889. Today, he is the national poet of the island nation.

Fast Fact

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.

Fast Fact

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.

Fast Fact

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.

Fast Fact

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 confessI love this cultured hell that tests my youth.”

Media Credits

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National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Melissa MacPhee, National Geographic Society,
National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

May 20, 2022

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