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Middle Passages

Authors: Kamau Brathwaite

Published by Bloodaxe Books

ISBN: 9781852242244

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The Barbadian poet Kamau Brathwaite reversed the Middle Passage of slavery when he exiled himself to Ghana, where he re-discovered his ancestral African roots.

Returning home, he charted a second discovery, that of Africa in the Caribbean through six interconnected books, three published in the 1960s which turned into The Arrivants: A New World Trilogy (1973), and a second (Bajan) trilogy comprising Mother Poem (1977), Sun Poem (1982) and X/Self (1987), all published by Oxford University Press.

Middle Passages is an offshoot of the second trilogy, "a splice of time and space", as he puts it, between his father's world of Sun Poem and "the magical irrealism" of X/Self. With his other 'shorter' collections Black + Blues and Third World Poems, Middle Passages creates a kind of chisel which may well lead us into a projected third trilogy. Here is a political angle to Brathwaite's Caribbean and New World quest, with new notes of protest and lament. It marks a Sisyphean stage of Third World history in which things fall apart and everyone's achievements come tumbling back down upon their heads and into their hearts, like the great stone which King Sisyphus was condemned to keep heaving back up the same hill in hell - a postmodernist implosion already signalled by Baldwin, Patterson, Soyinka and Achebe and more negatively by V.S. Naipaul; but given a new dimension here by Brathwaite's rhythmical and 'video' affirmations.

And so Middle Passages includes poems for those modern heroes who are the pegs by which the mountain must be climbed again: Maroon resistance, the poets Nicolas Guillan, the Cuban revolutionary, and Mikey Smith, stoned to death on Stony Hill; the great musicians (Ellington, Bessie Smith); and Third World leaders Kwame Nkrumah, Walter Rodney and Nelson Mandela.
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