For Humanities Week 2018, The Puzzle Poetry group fabricated a large 6’ x 10’ pentomino puzzle from the last six lines of Claude McKay’s sonnet “Outcast.”
First published by McKay in 1922, the Harlem Renaissance poet’s verses explicitly name the menace of white supremacy and speak to a sense of lost African identity. The formal ingenuity discovered on a close reading of the poem supports still more insights concerning the colonized world and the project of decolonization, the Renaissance and its relation to the Harlem Renaissance, alienation, and McKay’s appropriation of the sonnet form.
At the puzzle event, which was partly conceived as a response to the neofascist violence of August 12th, the summer before, students were asked to assemble and disassemble McKay’s poem, to think about the scale of structural racism, and to discuss the purpose of memorials and monuments.
The Puzzle Poetry event was covered in UVa Today by Anne Bromley.