Paul Metcalf has a metronome inside himself, somewhere in those ever-present but rarely approached places that enfold the guts of The Body America. That metronome picks up a certain pulse - sometimes following the beat, sometimes its counterpoint. It smashes the new fangled looms of Industrial England and runs the course of slave-ships infested with smallpox, shit & lechery; it clocks the coupling of sperm whales at sea.
With The Middle Passage, we need a blurb saying: "I have written a dark book, etc., etc." And what a coal-hole! An unbearable blackness at times: he makes it possible by keeping the beat. The time he takes taps out the passion & dispassion of the textbook and the poem as they submit one to the other in turn. That hope - the old cliche commands us to abandon when entering such places - moves like a virus all throughout this, The Middle Passage.